Clashes break out in Tahrir Square
Clashes break out in Tahrir Square
More than 100 injured as pro-Mubarak supporters attack protesters seeking president's ouster in Egyptian capital.
Last Modified: 02 Feb 2011 13:24 GMT
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 a 100 people were injured in Wednesday's clashes and in a stampede that started when trouble broke out.
Earlier, witnesses said thousands of pro-Mubarak supporters had entered the square. Opposition groups said Mubarak had sent in thugs to suppress the protest.
Al Jazeera's Jane Dutton, also in Cairo, said that "hundreds of anti-government supporters were running from the square, including many women and children".
Another Al Jazeera correspondent said men on horseback and camels ran into the crowds, as army personnel stood by. The correspondent added that more horses and camels are arriving into the square.
At least six riders were dragged from their beasts, beaten with sticks 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.
Our correspondent added that the clashes look to be escalating.
The worst of the fighting was just outside the world famous Egyptian Museum, which was targeted by looters last week.
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."
Dutton also 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. Soldiers did not intervene.
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 plainclothes.
"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".
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.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies