Supporters of embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak—some on horses and camels and armed with whips—charged without warning into the ranks of opposition protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square Feb. 2, sparking running battles that have left hundreds injured and at least one dead. Both sides erected barricades and hurled stones, concrete and other missiles at each other. Government supporters on surrounding rooftops dropped Molotov cocktails on protesters below. Police fired tear gas at protesters, while seemingly leaving the rest to “unofficial” pro-Mubarak forces. Gunfire has been heard repeatedly, but it seems to be police firing into the air to intimidate protesters. The army, with a strong presence around the square, appeared not to interfere. Similar scenes are reported from Alexandria. The pro-government mobs are assumed to be organized by the ruling National Democratic Party, with a probable hand of the Mukhabarat secret police agency. (Middle East Online, AFP, Al-Masry al-Youm, BBC World Service, Feb. 2)
The violence came just after the army issued a statement calling for an end to the protests. A military spokesman said on state television, “Your message has arrived, your demands became known. You are capable of bringing normal life to Egypt.” Internet access was also officially restored, in an apparent bid to instate a sense of normality. (AP, Feb. 2)
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