Clashes between protesters, Mubarak supporters

People fought each other while troops surrounding the square made no attempt to intervene.

Clashes between protesters, Mubarak supporters

 

Opponents and supporters of President Hosni Mubarak fought with fists, stones and clubs in Cairo on Wednesday in what appeared to be a move by forces loyal to the Egyptian leader to end protests calling for him to quit.

Protesters said some of the Mubarak supporters were members of the hated police force in plain clothes. Some rode into the crowd on horses and camels and in carriages, wielding whips and sticks.

People fought while troops surrounding the vast Tahrir (Liberation) Square made no attempt to intervene. Reuters correspondents saw dozens of injured. Many people fled in panic.

Anti-Mubarak protesters said they would not leave the square until Mubarak quits.

Khalil, a man in his 60s holding a stick, blamed Mubarak supporters and undercover security men for the clashes.

"But we will not leave," he told Reuters. "Everybody stay put."

The Interior Ministry denied police were involved.

The fighting broke out as international pressure grew on Mubarak to quit and his closest ally, the United States, told him bluntly that a political transition must begin immediately.

After Mubarak went on national television on Tuesday night to say he would not stand in elections scheduled for September, the armed forces said the protesters' demands had been heard and it was time for them to clear the streets.

Soon after several hundred pro-Mubarak supporters entered Tahrir (Liberation) Square, where a few thousand protesters had gathered, and the clashes broke out, witnesses said.

Opposition figurehead Mohammed ElBaradei accused the government of using "scare tactics".

"This is yet another symptom, or another indication, of a criminal regime using criminal acts," ElBaradei told the BBC.

It was the ninth day of protests that broke out last week as public frustration with corruption, oppression and economic hardship under 30 years of rule by Mubarak boiled over.

An opposition coalition, which includes Islamist organisation the Muslim Brotherhood, responded to the army warning by calling for more protests.

It said it would only negotiate with Vice President Omar Suleiman, a former intelligence chief appointed by Mubarak at the weekend, once Mubarak stepped down.

Mubarak's offer to leave in September was his latest gambit in the crisis. At the weekend he reshuffled his cabinet and promised reform but it was not enough for protesters.

One million people took to the streets of Egyptian cities on Tuesday calling for him to quit.

Wednesday's violence was the worst in the crisis since Friday, when police and protesters fought running street battles. At least 140 people are estimated to have been killed so far.

U.S. President Barack Obama spoke to Mubarak for half an hour by telephone on Tuesday night after the 82-year-old announced his plan to step down in September.

"What is clear and what I indicated tonight to President Mubarak is my belief that an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful and it must begin now," Obama said after speaking to him.

Pressure also came from Turkey, an important diplomatic voice in the Muslim world. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said Mubarak's plan to step down in seven months time did not meet the people's expectations and the change should begin sooner.

France, Germany and Britain also called for a speedy transition.

"The transition needs to be rapid and credible and it needs to start now," British Prime Minister David Cameron told the UK parliament.

Agencies

 

 

Last Mod: 02 Şubat 2011, 17:17
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