Cairo: Clash Between Protesters As Mubarak Supporters March On Tahrir Square: UPDATED

2 Feb

A Mubarak supporter cries ...

Supporters of President Hosni Mubarak have descended on Tahrir Square in Cairo, where anti-Mubarak protesters are currently camped.

Anti And Pro-Mubarak Protesters Clash Play video

Anti And Pro-Mubarak Protesters Clash Play video

Around 20,000 people, who first gathered along the River Nile’s Corniche promenade, have marched to confront anti-Mubarak protesters who have been calling for the president’s resignation from Tahrir Square.

Mr Mubarak’s supporters, who now far outnumber his detractors, 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.

Soldiers sat in a line of tanks are observing the demonstrations, but there are currently not enough of them to cope with any violence that could arise if the two sets of protesters clash.

Organisers of the pro-Mubarak movement are urging their followers not to engage in violence with their counterparts and the stand-off is currently peaceful.

There are rumours that the pro-Mubarak crowds, representing a cross-section of society, have been paid to support the president, but the sheer number of people makes that unlikely.

A party atmosphere exists among the group on Ramses Street, where people are dancing with flags and chanting: “Stay Mubarak” and “We love you Mubarak”.

Many protesters say they have 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 there could be clashes between his supporters and detractors.

NEWS UPDATE:

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By HADEEL AL-SHALCHI and SARAH EL DEEB, Associated Press Hadeel Al-shalchi And Sarah El Deeb, Associated Press :

CAIRO – Hundreds of pro-government supporters attacked protesters Wednesday in Cairo’s central square, where thousands were pushing ahead with demonstrations demanding the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.

Mubarak supporters were out in the streets for the first time Wednesday in large numbers, with thousands demanding an end to the anti-government movement a day after the president went on national television and rejected demands for him to step down.

Those calling for Mubarak to go have been out in Cairo and many other cities for more than a week, and they drew by far their largest crowd on Tuesday when at least a quarter million packed the central Tahrir Square and the downtown area around it. Hundreds of thousands more have turned out in other cities across this nation of 80 million.

By early afternoon, an Associated Press reporter saw Mubarak supporters break through a human chain of anti-government protesters trying to defend thousands gathered in Tahrir. They tore down banners denouncing the president and fistfights broke out as they advanced across the massive square in the heart of the capital. A number of those involved were injured and some were bleeding from their heads.

The anti-government protesters grabbed Mubarak posters from the hands of the supporters and ripped them.

The confrontations began just hours after a military spokesman went on national television and asked the protesters to disperse so life in Egypt could go back to normal. During the clashes, soldiers and tanks who have been guarding the square did not appear to intervene.

Almost immediately after Mubarak announced late Tuesday night that he would serve out the remaining seven months of his term and would not leave the country, groups of Mubarak supporters rarely seen before in the week of anti-government protests took to the streets, some carrying knives and sticks.

In Alexandria, clashes erupted right after Mubarak’s address between the two sides.

NEWS UPDATE:

Thousands of supporters of embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak clashed violently with opposition protesters after marching into an anti-regime rally in Tahrir Square on Wednesday, witnesses and an AFP correspondent said.

A Mubarak supporter cries Enlarge photo

Protesters from both sides threw stones at each other in the divided square, the epicentre of opposition demonstrations now in their ninth day.

The clashes were centred in front of the world famous Egyptian Museum.

Soldiers surrounding the square took cover from the projectiles, and the windows of at least one army truck were broken. Some troops stood on tanks and appealed for calm but did not otherwise intervene.

An AFP reporter said several people had been injured.

“The pro-Mubarak NDP (National Democratic Party) and the secret police dressed in plain clothes, they invaded the place to get rid of the revolt,” protester Mohammed Zomor, 63, told AFP.

Fighting took place around army tanks deployed in the square, with stones bouncing off the armoured vehicles.

Several groups were involved in fist fights, and some were using clubs.

The opposition said plain-clothes policemen stormed the square.

“Members of security forces dressed in plain clothes and a number of thugs have stormed Tahrir Square,” three opposition groups said in a statement.

A man drinks tea as he observes the continuing demonstration from a ninth floor balcony overlooking Tahrir square in downtown Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, F 

AP – A man drinks tea as he observes the continuing demonstration from a ninth floor balcony overlooking Tahrir …

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