Al Jazeera – 2011-02-02 21:58:47
Violence Flares in Cairo Square
(February 2, 2011) — At least three people are believed to have died and more than 1,500 others injured in continuing clashes between pro- and anti-government demonstrators in the Egyptian capital Cairo.â€¨â€¨Protesters from both sides fought pitched battles on Wednesday in Tahrir [Liberation] Square, the epicentre of ongoing opposition demonstrations against Hosni Mubarak for the past nine days.
An Al Jazeera correspondent, reporting from just outside the square late at night, said dozens of pro-Mubarak supporters had erected barricades on either side of a road, trapping the pro-democracy supporters. They were gathering stones, breaking streetlights and using balaclavas to cover their faces, apparently in preparation for a fresh standoff with the pro-democracy crowd.
Our correspondent said local residents thought the men preparing for the standoff were police officers but the claim could not be independently confirmed.
Just hours earlier, an Al Jazeera online producer reporting from near Tahrir Square said: “Someone — a few people actually — were dropping homemade bombs into the square from the buildings surrounding it.”
Gunshots were also regularly ringing out of the square.
The Reuters news agency reported quoting officials that three people were killed in Wednesday’s violence. It also quoted a doctor at the scene as saying that more than 1,500 had been injured.
Army standing byâ€¨â€¨Witnesses said the military allowed thousands of pro-Mubarak supporters, armed with sticks and knives, to enter the square. Opposition groups said Mubarak had sent in thugs to suppress anti-government protests.
One of our correspondents said the army seemed to be standing by and facilitating the clashes.
Though initially put on the backfoot by the sudden attack, determined anti-government protesters looked to be winning the battle against Mubarak supporters.
CAIRO (February 2, 2011) — Witnesses also said that pro-Mubarak supporters were dragging away protesters they had managed to grab and handing them over to security forces.
Salma Eltarzi, an anti-government protester, told Al Jazeera there were hundreds of wounded people. “There are no ambulances in sight, and all we are using is Dettol,” she said. “We are all so scared.”â€¨â€¨Aisha Hussein, a nurse, said dozens of people were being treated at a makeshift clinic in a mosque near the square.â€¨â€¨She described a scene of “absolute mayhem”, as protesters first began to flood into the clinic.
“People are coming in with multiple wounds. All kinds of contusions. We had one guy who needed stitches in two places on his face. Some have broken bones.”
Mustafa Hussein, a physician who was treating the injured at a makeshift hospital near Tahrir Square, told Al Jazeera that most of the injured protesters “coming in today are suffering from head injuries resulting from rocks being thrown at them”. â€¨ â€¨
Meanwhile, another Al Jazeera correspondent said men on horseback and camels ploughed into the crowds as army personnel stood by.
At least six riders were dragged from their beasts, beaten with sticks by the protesters and taken away with blood streaming down their faces.â€¨â€¨One of them was dragged away unconscious, with large blood stains on the ground at the site of the clash.â€¨â€¨The worst of the fighting was just outside the world famous Egyptian Museum, which was targeted by looters last week.
Al Jazeera‘s correspondent said a group of pro-government protesters took over army vehicles. They also took control of a nearby building and used the rooftop to throw concrete blocks, stones, and other objects.â€¨â€¨Soldiers surrounding the square took cover from flying stones, and the windows of at least one army vehicle were broken. Some troops stood on tanks and appealed for calm but did not otherwise intervene.
Many of the pro-Mubarak supporters raised slogans like “Thirty Years of Stability, Nine Days of Anarchy”.
Al Jazeera‘s Jane Dutton, also in Cairo, said that security guards have also been seen amongst the pro-Mubarak supporters, and it may be a precursor to the feared riot police arriving on the scene.â€¨â€¨Dutton added that a journalist with the Al-Arabiya channel was stabbed during the clashes.
Fighting took place around army tanks deployed around the square, with stones bouncing off the armoured vehicles.
Several groups were involved in fist fights, and some were using clubs. The opposition also said many among the pro-Mubarak crowd were policemen in plain clothes.
“Members of security forces dressed in plain clothes and a number of thugs have stormed Tahrir Square,” three opposition groups said in a statement.â€¨â€¨Mohamed ElBaradei, a prominent opposition figure, accused Mubarak of resorting to scare tactics. Opposition groups have reportedly also seized police identification cards amongst the pro-Mubarak demonstrators.
“I’m extremely concerned, I mean this is yet another symptom, or another indication, of a criminal regime using criminal acts,” ElBaradei said.
“My fear is that it will turn into a bloodbath,” he added, calling the pro-Mubarak supporters a “bunch of thugs”.â€¨â€¨ElBaradei has also urged the army to intervene.â€¨â€¨”I ask the army to intervene to protect Egyptian lives,” he told Al Jazeera, adding he said it should intervene “today” and not remain neutral.â€¨â€¨Determined protesters
Despite the clashes, anti-government protesters seeking Mubarak’s immediate resignation said they would not give up until Mubarak steps down.
Khalil, in his 60s and holding a stick, blamed Mubarak supporters and undercover security for the clashes.
“But we will not leave,” he told Reuters. “Everybody stay put.”
Mohammed el-Belgaty, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, told Al Jazeera the “peaceful demonstrations in Tahrir Square have been turned into chaos”.
“The speech delivered by President Mubarak was very provocative as he used very sentimental words.â€¨â€¨”Since morning, hundreds of these paid thugs started to demonstrate pretending to be supporting the President. Now they came to charge inside Tahrir Square armed with batons, sticks and some knives.
“Mubarak is asking the people to choose between him or chaos.”â€¨â€¨Ahead of Wednesday’s clashes, supporters of the president staged a number of rallies around Cairo, saying Mubarak represented stability amid growing insecurity, and calling those who want his departure “traitors.”â€¨â€¨
“Yes to Mubarak, to protect stability,” read one banner in a crowd of 500 gathered near state television headquarters, about 1km from Tahrir Square.â€¨â€¨A witness said organisers were paying people $17, to take part in the pro-Mubarak rally, a claim that could not be confirmed.â€¨â€¨Other pro-Mubarak demonstrations occurred in the Mohandeseen district, as well as near Ramses Square.
Global Cries of Outrage over Cairo Violence
(February 2, 2011) — The latest reaction to clashes erupting in the Egyptian capital Cairo between supporters and opponents of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.â€¨
PJ Crowley, Assistant US Secretary of State
After days of peaceful protests in Cairo and other cities in Egypt, today we see violent attacks on peaceful demonstrators and journalists. The United States denounces these attacks and calls on all engaged in demonstrations currently taking place in Egypt to do so peacefully.â€¨â€¨These attacks are not only dangerous to Egypt; they are a direct threat to the aspirations of the Egyptian people. The use of violence to intimidate the Egyptian people must stop. We strongly call for restraint.
Robert Gibbs, US Press Secretary
The United States deplores and condemns the violence that is taking place in Egypt, and we are deeply concerned about attacks on the media and peaceful demonstrators. We repeat our strong call for restraint.
Ban Ki-moon, United Nations Secretary-General
I am deeply concerned by the continuing violence in Egypt. I once again urge restraint to all the sides. Any attack against peaceful demonstrators is unacceptable and I strongly condemn it.â€¨â€¨We should not underestimate the danger of instability across the Middle East.
David Cameron, UK Prime Minister
The attacks on Egyptian protesters are unnacceptable. If it turns out that the regime in any way has been sponsoring or tolerating this violence, that would be completely and utterly unnacceptable.â€¨â€¨These are despicable scenes that we’re seeing.
Mohamed ElBaradei, Egyptian Opposition Figure
I’m extremely concerned, I mean this is yet another symptom, or another indication, of a criminal regime using criminal acts. My fear is that it will turn into a bloodbath.â€¨â€¨
It seems to me that this is a regime that does not want to listen to the people, does not want to understand that they need to go, and in fact it strengthens the resolve of every Egyptian that Mr Mubarak has to go, has to go immediately before the country goes down the drain.
Now they want to get rid of millions of people who are demonstrating, and will continue to demonstrate, by scare tactics.
Even if I take him on his word, why do I have to keep a representative of a regime which I believe is turning into a regime of thugs? Why do Egyptians have to keep him for seven months of instability, of insecurity, of intimidation?
Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Middle East North Africa Programme Deputy Director
There seems to be an indication that the violence has been orchestrated by the authorities to stop the protests. The security forces that are normally in charge of policing and protecting demonstrators has not intervened to separate the two groups.
Witnesses in Mahala and Cairo have reported seeing lorries carrying pro-government supporters.
This wouldn’t be the first time the Egyptian authorities used this kind of tactic to quell demonstrations, however, if this is the case that would be a very cynical and bloody way to quell the demonstrations.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.