Clashes Break Out in Tahrir Square

Published on
by
Al-Jazeera-English

Clashes Break Out in Tahrir Square

More than 100 injured as pro-Mubarak supporters attack protesters seeking president's ouster in Egyptian capital.

by

Protesters from both sides threw stones at each other in Tahrir Square, the epicentre of ongoing opposition demonstrations against President Hosni Mubarak.


Clashes have broken out between pro- and anti-government demonstrators in the Egyptian capital Cairo.

Protesters
from both sides threw stones at each other in Tahrir Square, the
epicentre of ongoing opposition demonstrations against President Hosni
Mubarak for the past nine days.

Al Jazeera correspondents, reporting from the scene, said that more
than 500 people had been injured in Wednesday's clashes that are still
continuing.

Earlier, 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. Latest reports suggest that the centre of the
square is still in control of the protesters, despite the pro-Mubarak
supporters gaining ground.

'Absolute mayhem'

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."

Aisha Hussein, a nurse, said dozens of people were being treated at a makeshift clinic in a mosque near the square.

She described a scene of "absolute mayhem", as protesters first began to flood into the clinic.

Al Jazeera's special coverage on Egypt

"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."

Meanwhile, another Al Jazeera correspondent said men on horseback and
camels had 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.

One of them was dragged away unconscious, with large blood stains on the ground at the site of the clash.

The worst of the fighting was just outside the world famous Egyptian Museum, which was targeted by looters last week.

Al Jazeera's correspondent added that several 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.

Soldiers surrounding the
square took cover from flying stones, 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.

Many of the pro-Mubarak supporters raised slogans like "Thirty Years of Stability, Nine Days of Anarchy".

Al
Jazeera's online producer in Cairo said rocks were continously being
thrown from both sides. He said that though the army had put up
barricades around the square, they let the pro-Mubarak
supporters through.

"The people on horses are pro-Mubarak supporters, they are a very
angry crowd looking for anyone working for Al Jazeera and for Americans.
They are trying to get on the other side of the army tanks to get to
the anti-Mubarak supporters. More and more pro-Mubarak supporters are
coming in."

Violence

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.

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.

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".

But
according to state television, the minister of interior denied that
plain clothes police had joined pro-Mubarak demonstrations.

Elbaradei has also urged the army to intervene.

"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.

Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director for Amnesty
International's Middle East and North Africa Programme, told Al Jazeera
that the clashes look to be orchestrated.

"It is not the first
time the Mubarak government has provoked clashes to quell protests, but
if it truly is orchestrated, this is a cynical and bloody approach," she
said.

"The army look to be not intervening at all, and the question remains as to whether they have been ordered not to step in."

The army has told state television that citizens should arrest those who have stolen military clothing, and to hand them over.

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.

"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."

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."

"Yes
to Mubarak, to protect stability," read one banner in a crowd of 500
gathered near state television headquarters, about 1km from Tahrir
Square.

A witness said organisers were paying people $17, to take part in the pro-Mubarak rally, a claim that could not be confirmed.

Other pro-Mubarak demonstrations occurred in the Mohandeseen district, as well as near Ramses Square.

Share This Article

More in: