Cairo: Anti And Pro-Mubarak Protesters Clash In Tahrir Square: UPDATED

2 Feb

Fighting has broken out between supporters of the president and anti-Mubarak protesters in Tahrir Square in Cairo.

Anti And Pro-Mubarak Protesters Clash Play video
 
The stand-off between the 20,000-strong mob of Mubarak supporters and the anti-Mubarak protesters descended into violence after they met at central Tahrir Square.

Both sets of groups, numbering about 40,000 people in total, have been fighting intensely, throwing rocks at each other and lashing out with metal bars, injuring dozens.

In one area the violence was temporarily diffused when a young man stood between the two groups and called for calm.

However, in another part of the square, Mubarak supporters rode three horses and a camel into the anti-Mubarak crowds where they were pulled off the animals and badly beaten. One was later carried away, unconscious.

The president’s supporters appear to be forcing the anti-Mubarak protesters out of the square.

Many people have tried to flee the scene as the aggressors square up to each other, but there is a bottleneck effect preventing them from getting away. 

Soldiers, numbering in their hundreds, have started the engines of their tanks, but are powerless to prevent the clashes.

The pro-Mubarak protesters first gathered along the River Nile‘s Corniche promenade before marching to confront anti-Mubarak campaigners who have been calling for the president’s resignation from Tahrir Square.

Mr Mubarak’s supporters say he has made enough concessions and should be allowed to stay in power.

They claim Egypt has been profitable under the leader’s 30-year regime and are angry that anti-Mubarak campaigners have, in effect, shut down the capital with their protests.

Other supporters are more moderate, saying they understand change is needed, but that Mr Mubarak should oversee the changeover to ensure stability.

The mob is made up of people who have been bussed into the city as part of an organised march and those who have spontaneously joined the crowds.

They began their demonstration outside the offices of the Arabic news station Al Jazeera, which was taken off air by the president, before starting to move towards Tahrir Square.

Organisers of the pro-Mubarak movement had previously urged their followers not to engage in violence with their counterparts.

Despite rumours that the pro-Mubarak crowds, representing a cross-section of society, had been organised by the government, the sheer number of them makes that unlikely.

Before the stand-off, a party atmosphere had existed among many of the protesters on Ramses Street, where people were dancing with flags and chanting: “Stay Mubarak” and “We love you Mubarak”.

Many protesters said they had only just taken to the streets as they had previously been worried about lawlessness due to the lack of a visible police force and felt they needed to protect their homes.

Some members of the gathering are more hostile towards westerners in general, claiming the West has encouraged the anti-Mubarak movement and has not represented their views.   

In his address on Tuesday night, the president warned the situation could quickly become chaotic if he was removed from power.

NEWS UPDATE:

Egypt evacuees pay the toll Play Video CBC.ca  – Egypt evacuees pay the toll

Anti-government protests in Egypt Slideshow:Anti-government protests in Egypt

One million protesters in Egypt Play Video Video:One million protesters in Egypt Reuters

AP – Young evacuees from Egypt arrive at the Athens International Airport Eleftherios Venizelos, in Spata, …

 
By TAREK EL-TABLAWY, AP Business Writer Tarek El-tablawy, Ap Business Writer :

CAIRO – The U.S. began evacuating nonessential government personnel and their families Wednesday, while crowds piled up at Cairo’s airport as more than 8,000 people played the odds in hopes of securing a seat aboard a commercial airline that would allow them to escape the chaos engulfing Egypt.

Thousands of passengers were packed into the airport early Wednesday, with more expected to arrive in the early afternoon before the start of a curfew that Egyptian state television said had been pushed back to 5 p.m. The influx of passengers came as demonstrators demanding President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster clashed with the leader’s supporters — some riding horses and camels — in central Cairo in a fresh outbreak of violence in the week-old protests.

The U.S. Embassy said it expected to evacuate more than 1,000 Americans from Egypt over the next two days, including government personnel and other citizens in the country. The State Department issued a mandatory evacuation order Tuesday for non-emergency government staff. Other Americans wishing to leave Egypt amid the unrest that has engulfed the country would also be accommodated.

“Things are going very smoothly,” Roberto Powers, the U.S. consul-general in Egypt told The Associated Press. “Anyone wishing to travel today — there are spaces available.”

At least two U.S. chartered planes had either taken off or were nearing departure, and other flights were planned, embassy officials said.

For others, efforts to flee the country were not going as easily.

Airport officials said more than 18,000 passengers had been massed in about three departure terminals on Tuesday, more than half of them boarding special flights sent in by their governments.

“I have been at the airport since 3 p.m. yesterday. My flight was supposed to leave at 6 a.m. this morning, but now they’re saying at 3 p.m.,” said Carol Mangrum, a Clarksdale, Mississippi-resident who was on vacation in Egypt on Wednesday. “I’ve been here at the airport the whole time. I’m tired, but anxious to go home.”

The exodus of foreigners, and some Egyptians, reflected the unease and general weariness of many with the standoff between Mubarak and the tens of thousands of protesters demanding his ouster.

About 100 Germans left Alexandria on Tuesday and another 1,000 flew out of Cairo, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said, adding that 10 consular officials were at Cairo airport while four were in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada and two in Luxor.

Britain, which has not ordered diplomatic staff to leave Egypt, said a chartered flight was leaving London at midday on Wednesday and would return Thursday with British nationals stranded in Cairo. It has advised its citizens in Egypt to leave, if possible. About 15,000 British tourists are also vacationing in the calmer Red Sea resorts that have been spared the mayhem in Cairo and Alexandria.

The government also defended its levying of a roughly $480 charge per seat on the aircraft, saying it did not want to undercut commercial services operating between Britain and Egypt.

The U.S. government will also bill Americans who opt to take one of its charter flights. While the cost has not been disclosed, officials said it was comparable to what a regular flight between Cairo and the safe haven destinations — Germany, Greece, Turkey and Cyprus — would cost.

The curfew, which until Wednesday ran between 3 p.m. to 8 a.m., had forced many airlines to readjust their schedules to account for the times when passengers would be able to come to the airport. Several temporarily suspended flights.

National carrier EgyptAir had organized just 29 or its 148 scheduled international and domestic flights. The airline has been canceling as many as 75 percent of its flights because it was unable to field enough crew, in part because of the curfew.

In a reflection of the hit Egypt’s vital tourism sector was experiencing, the airport’s arrival hall was largely empty. The only people moving through were journalists flying in to cover the country’s protests, as well as a group of about 345 Sudanese, Yemenis who came for a visit to Egypt, airport officials said.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

___

Associated Press reporters from across Europe contributed to this report.

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