Wednesday, February 2, 2011

More killed in fresh Cairo clashes

There are reports that at least two people have been killed in a fresh outbreak of shooting in central Cairo's Tahrir Square.But witnesses in the centre of the violence claim anti-government protesters are running from bullets and that six people are dead from heavy gunfire which has been raging for almost two hours.
Witnesses also said there were many people wounded by fire coming from the October Bridge where partisans of embattled president Hosni Mubarak are positioned.
The barrage erupted in the early hours of Thursday morning (local time), after a day which saw pitched battles between pro- and anti-government supporters on the streets of the Egyptian capital.
An anti-government protester in the square told Al Jazeera that protesters were being shot at and women and children were caught in the middle of the violence.
"People are too tired to be terrified ... We cannot go back at this point," she said.
"We cannot trust a government that is sending thugs to kill us."Al Arabiya television quoted a doctor at the scene as saying one protester was killed and two more were injured by stones.
Another witness said as many as 15 people had been wounded.
Protesters have barricaded the square against supporters of Mr Mubarak who are trying to penetrate the makeshift cordon.
"This place will turn into a slaughterhouse very soon if the army does not intervene," said Ahmed Maher, who saw pro-Mubarak supporters with swords and knives.
Urging protesters to clear the streets, the armed forces told them their demands had been heard after Mr Mubarak announced that he would be not be contesting Egypt's next election later this year.
But some protesters were determined to occupy the square until Mr Mubarak quits.
Earlier, three people were reported dead and around 1,500 injured after protesters were attacked by what they said were paid thugs hired by Mr Mubarak's regime.
Pro-government partisans on camel and horseback charged demonstrators while others threw concrete blocks and makeshift petrol bombs.
Egypt's new vice-president, Omar Suleiman, has called on anti-government demonstrators to quit their protests, saying talks with the opposition will not go ahead until calm returns to the streets.
Meanwhile, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton has condemned the "shocking" bloody clashes that have rocked Cairo.
The State Department said Ms Clinton had called Mr Suleiman, telling him the violence "was a shocking development after many days of consistently peaceful demonstrations".
"The secretary urged that the government of Egypt hold accountable those who were responsible for violent acts," the state department added in a statement.
"Secretary Clinton also underscored the important role that the Egyptian Armed Forces have played in exercising restraint in the face of peaceful demonstrations and expressed concern that all parties recommit themselves to using only peaceful means of assembly."

Egyptian military's idleness raises questions

The fiery, bloody clashes between demonstrators in Cairo -- with soldiers watching with seeming indifference -- is an apparent maneuver by the Egyptian military to raise popular support for their intervention and the old guard police state, analysts say.
Egyptian state television on Wednesday went so far as to portray the protesters as members of a radical fringe and bluntly stated: "Let the military take over and protect you and Egypt."
"We have confirmed reports that there are radical elements heading to cause internal strife. They have balls of fire and they want to start fire in the Tahrir (Liberation) Square," Egyptian television said.
Much international media coverage has focused on the violence in Cairo's Liberation Square between antagonists and protagonists for embattled President Hosni Mubarak. It remained unclear whether such confrontations were being repeated elsewhere. Contesting rallies in Egypt's second-largest city, Alexandria, were largely peaceful. Other Cairo neighborhoods also remained calm.
But Wednesday's events in Liberation Square highlighted pro-Mubarak demonstrators charging -- dramatically on horseback and camels -- anti-Mubarak protesters, the first sign of a counter-demonstration after days of mass anti-government protests.
In stark juxtaposition, as the violence unfolded, the army did nothing.
"The military's refusal to act is a highly political act which shows that it is allowing the Egyptian regime to reconstitute itself at the top and is highly, utterly against the protesters," said Joshua Stacher, assistant professor of political science at Kent State University and an expert on Egypt. He was among more than a dozen Middle East experts who met Monday with three White House National Security Council officials to talk about the Egyptian crisis.
The absence of military action serves two purposes, Stacher said.
"(One,) make the protesters go home, and two, scare the population that isn't protesting," Stacher said. "They want the Egyptian people to submit to the police state, and they want the people to pine for their police state so that they have stability back."
"It's getting really ruthless," Stacher added.
In Egypt, Vice President Omar Suleiman issued a statement saying that dialogue with opposition forces, as ordered by Mubarak, won't begin until the demonstrations stop. Mubarak had incited another round of protests Tuesday when he said he would wait until the September elections to step down. Demonstrators said they wanted an immediate exit by Mubarak.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has begun a round of discussions with Suleiman as the Egyptian government has begun defending the pace of change and pushing back against American criticism, according to a senior U.S. official.
Egypt's president is going to move at his own pace and not be pressured by Obama and other world leaders, an Egyptian government official told CNN.
At the same time, a senior U.S. official is expressing concern about Mubarak's ties to the violence in Cairo.
U.S. officials are suspicious that Mubarak loyalists unleashed pro-Mubarak forces to intimidate protesters, the U.S. official said. "Perhaps" Mubarak is making a mess that only he can "solve," the source added.
In a public statement, the spokesman for the State Department called for restraint.
"The use of violence to intimidate the Egyptian people must stop. We strongly call for restraint," P.J. Crowley said in a statement Wednesday.
However, an Egyptian government official said the government has a "serious problem" in how the Obama administration has been "spinning" the events yesterday to give the impression that Mubarak's statement was given under pressure or a "nudge" from Obama.
Robert Kagan of the Brookings Institute said the military appears to be facilitating the pro-government demonstrators in Cairo.
"It tells me that the military doesn't appear to be playing the neutral, benevolent role that we hoped it would," Kagan told CNN. "It does appear to be not only allowing these brutal pro-government thugs to come in and attack the protesters but maybe even facilitating it, which raises very serious questions about what role the military intends to play in this whole period of transition.
"It's a very cynical move which I hope the rest of the world, and particularly the United States, don't fall for," Kagan said.
Michele Dunne, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said it was unclear what the military's agenda is.
"Does this mean they're committed to Mubarak, or does it mean that perhaps they're giving him one last chance, one last try to see if he can get control of the streets and get the demonstrators out?" Dunne told CNN.
"I think today we saw a very ugly face of this regime. These are tactics that are well-known in Egypt and have been used many times before -- to send regime thugs to break up peaceful demonstrations," she said.

Video of fierce Egypt clashes as pro-govt crowds attack anti-Mubarak protesters

A democratic Egypt won't threaten peace with Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that if democracy prevails in Egypt then it will not pose a threat to peace with Israel.
"All those who value freedom are inspired by the calls for democratic reforms in Egypt," Netanyahu said during a speech to the Knesset. "An Egypt that will adopt these reforms will be a source of hope for the world. As much as the foundations for democracy are stronger, the foundations for peace are stronger."
The prime minister said that there is a risk that instability in Egypt could last for years, and called for "bolstering Israel's might" in response to the turmoil.
"The basis of our stability, our future and for maintaining peace or widening it, particularly in unstable times, this basis lies in bolstering Israel's might," he added, in his toughest response yet to the week of protests in Egypt.
Netanyahu said that Israel expects any new government in Egypt to respect the peace treaty with Israel, and warned that Iran wants Egypt to turn into Gaza. He also stressed that Israel supports forces which advance freedom and peace, and opposes forces who promote terror and war.

After eight days of anti-government protests in Egypt, riots turned violent on Wednesday as hundreds were reported wounded in clashes between supporters of Egypt President Hosni Mubarak and anti-government protesters.
On Monday, Netanyahu met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and warned that what happened in Iran could happen in Egypt.
"Our real fear is of a situation that could develop ... and which has already developed in several countries including Iran itself -- repressive regimes of radical Islam," said Netanyahu.
Netanyahu continued, adding that although the protests may not be motivated by religious extremism, "in a situation of chaos, an organized Islamist body can seize control of a country. It happened in Iran. It happened in other instances".

Press TV Blames "Mubarak Thugs" for Clashes

Egyptian clashes leave 3 dead, hundreds hurt

Anti-government demonstrators and supporters of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak clashed repeatedly in Cairo on Wednesday leaving three people dead and more than 611 wounded.
Shortly after 11 p.m local time, the two groups faced each other in the city's Tahrir Square. Many flaming projectiles were thrown and some demonstrators set up barricades to protect themselves.

CBC's David Common said a large amount of gunfire could be heard in the square. The gunfire appeared to be coming from military forces who were firing into the air, he said.
"There is chaos in the streets of Cairo tonight," he said.
The opposing demonstrators ignored an order from the military to go home.
Egypt has been in upheaval now for nine days. On Tuesday, Mubarak said he would not run in September elections, a move that will end his 30 years in office. However, anti-government protesters keep insisting Mubarak must step down immediately.
Three fatalities
Health Minister Ahmed Farid said two young men were taken from Tahrir Square in ambulances. He said one man was already dead, while the other died in hospital.
The third man died when he fell from a bridge near the square. Farid said the man was wearing civilian clothes but may have been a member of the security forces.

Read more:

Arab Leaders Trying to Keep Heads Above Waves of Mideast Protests


As popular protests spread from Egypt and Tunisia to Jordan, Yemen and beyond, governments in those countries -- most of them U.S. allies -- are fighting to stay ahead of the curve and stay in power.
Jordan's King Abdullah dissolved his government today and appointed a new prime minister, giving it a mandate, according to an advisor to the king, for "effective, tangible and real political reform."
The reform is intended to include a new election law encouraging a multi-party system, but does not set a date for elections.
Striking a hopeful tone despite the growing popular unrest inside Jordan and around the region, advisor to King Abdullah and now former deputy prime minister Ayman Safadi told ABC News, "King Abdullah is the strongest ally for reform. With Tunisia and Egypt, there is a new dynamic in the region. To the extent which it applies depends on the political environment in each country. The king is turning a crisis into an opportunity."
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has appointed a vice president and instructed him to negotiate with the opposition.
Tunisia's interim government, led by Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi, reshuffled the cabinet removing some key figures associated with the ousted former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. But Tunisia is struggling to contain insistent protests and sporadic violence.
In Yemen, President Ali Abdullah Saleh increased wages and cut income taxes this week, and today announced that will address a special meeting of the consultative council, hoping to take some of the steam out of a "day of rage" planned for Thursday.
The question is: will those moves satisfy the opposition growing in confidence and ambitions?
In Egypt, the answer appears to be a resounding no. Protesters there are calling for nothing less than Mubarak's departure. In Yemen, the opposition says it is "too late" for dialogue. In Tunisia, they're calling for the removal of all senior officials tied to the ousted president.
In Jordan, it remains to be seen whether a new government announced today will satisfy the thousands demonstrating in six cities there.
Meanwhile, Syria is bracing itself for its own unrest, as online organizers there take inspiration from Egypt and Syria and are calling for a "day of rage" in Damascus this week.

These youth-led, technology-driven "Facebook revolutions" have leap-frogged far older and seemingly better-organized opposition groups who've fought and failed for decades to challenge their governments. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood was a late arrival at this current protests.
While protests have engulfed the Arab street before, the targets have most often been outsiders, usually the U.S. and Israel. Now they have a new target: their own governments.
Israel Watches Its Arab Allies Fight for Survival
Robert Danin, the Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, calls these events " new and unprecedented".
"We've seen demonstrations in the Middle East throughout the twentieth century. That part is not new," Danin said in an interview with "What we're seeing that is new is that demonstrations are taking place in response to local conditions and problems that are then being fueled by, and inspired by, what is happening elsewhere in the region."
However, America's historical role in these countries is very much relevant. The principal negative factor to U.S. credibility among Muslims in the region something President Obama set out to revamp and revitalize has been its very support for leaders like Hosni Mubarak and King Abdullah.
At his 2009 speech in Cairo, the president said, "I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere."
Muslims welcomed the words but told me, as they so often have, that actions speak louder than words. That is, they want America to support democracy, not just talk it up.

While U.S. officials now attempt to walk a fine line between backing democratic change and not abandoning old friends, for many Muslims, it's too late for U.S. officials to say anything of real value. As one Egyptian democracy activist told me over the weekend, "The U.S. is paying the piper for supporting the dictator Mubarak."
Beyond the U.S., one of the biggest losers from the upheaval could be the U.S.'s closest ally in the region, Israel.
Egypt's fall and in a nightmare scenario for U.S. and Israeli leaders, Jordan's as well would upend virtually all of Israel's peace and national security priorities.
Peace today in the region and peace in the future with the Palestinians depends on alliances with its neighbors Egypt and Jordan. Israel's national security also depends on them. Israel depends on Egypt providing a southern front against Hamas in Gaza. More troubling for Israel, Hamas is close to the Egypt's largest organized opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood.
Ripples From Tunisia Buffet Mideast
And a Palestinian state in the West Bank would be an almost unthinkable prospect for many Israelis with an unfriendly government in Jordan.
More broadly, with Israel's relations with Turkey damaged since the Israeli assault on the Gaza flotilla, Israel could, in a worst case, find itself with no reliable Arab ally.

'Pro-Mubarak demonstrators are targeting the press'

Swedish reporters are held by Egyptian Army, accused of being Mossad spies; 4 Israelis arrested; Anderson Cooper is beaten up.
Pro-government protesters and Egyptian military have attacked reporters from numerous media sources around the world during Wednesday's riots in Cairo's Tahrir Square.
Two Swedish reporters were held for hours on Wednesday by Egyptian soldiers accusing them of being Mossad spies, the reporters' employer, daily newspaper Aftonbladet, reported.The soldiers reportedly attacked the reporters, spitting in their faces and threatening to kill them.

Four Israeli journalists were arrested by Egyptian military police in Cairo on Wednesday. Three of those arrested work for Channel 2 and the fourth is from Nazareth.

In addition, renowned CNN correspondent Anderson Cooper and his news crew were roughed up by mobs favoring Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, as were Washington Post reporters. Cooper was reportedly punched in the head ten times.

Another CNN correspondent said that pro-government rioters were instructed to target the press.The US State Department condemned actions against journalists in Egypt on Wednesday.

State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley tweeted: "We are concerned about detentions and attacks on news media in Egypt. The civil society that Egypt wants to build includes a free press."

On Sunday, Egyptian authorities ordered the closure of Al-Jazeera's offices covering the protests. A statement by Al-Jazeera called Egypt's decision an act "designed to stifle and repress" open reporting. On Monday, six Al-Jazeera journalists were arrested, and released later that day.

World leaders denounce attacks on Egyptian protesters

Leaders around the globe joined a chorus of condemnation Wednesday over the eruption of violence in Cairo as embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak struggled to maintain his grip on power.
Violence between pro- and anti-government demonstrators spread through the Egyptian capital despite Mubarak's announcement that he will not seek re-election in the presidential election this year.
The time for a political transition in Egypt "is now," U.S. presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs said. The Egyptian people "need to see change," and a "meaningful transition must include opposition voices and parties being involved in this process as we move toward free and fair elections."
U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley denounced the attacks, calling them "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," he said.
British Prime Minister David Cameron warned that "if it turns out that the (Mubarak) regime in any way has been sponsoring or tolerating this violence, that would be completely and utterly unacceptable.""These are despicable scenes that we're seeing, and they should not be repeated," Cameron said outside 10 Downing Street. "They underline the need for political reform and, frankly, for that political reform to be accelerated and to happen quickly."
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle called on Egyptian security forces "not to use force against the demonstrators."
"Any escalation of the situation must be avoided at all costs, (and) gangs of thugs must be curbed immediately," he said. "The scenes of violence on the streets of Cairo throws into question whether the Egyptian political leadership has understood the importance of a speedy democratic reconstruction."
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said his country "renews its support for the Egyptians' aspiration for a free, democratic and diverse society."
"France will be alongside all those who intend to demonstrate peacefully," he declared.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed concern over the makeup of the regime that will follow Mubarak, who has helped enforce a more than three-decade peace between Egypt and Israel.
"I am convinced that that the forces that want to bring change and democratization in Egypt will also enhance peace between Israel and the Arab world," Netanyahu told the Knesset. "But we are not there yet. The struggle has not been decided. ... We need to do everything to make sure that peace endures."
United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon called the violence in Cairo "unacceptable" and said it is important for an "orderly and a peaceful transition" to take place.
"We should not underestimate the danger of instability across the Middle East," he added.
Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan asserted that Mubarak's administration "is not inspiring confidence for a quick transition to democracy," the Anatolia News Agency reported. "This is the people's expectation. ... A roadmap and a calendar for this should be announced, (and) I believe that such a transition should be made under an interim administration."
How much impact are the calls for change having on Mubarak? Probably not much, according to one veteran Middle East analyst.
Robert Danin, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, noted that the apparent crackdown on anti-government protesters started the day after former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Frank Wisner told Mubarak he should not seek another term as president.
Wisner was reportedly conveying that message from Obama.
"The timing is interesting," Danin said. "That suggests Mubarak has basically said, 'Enough. I've laid down my timeline, and now I'm digging in.' "
Danin called the eruption of violence "a clear rebuff" of the push for more immediate reform being advanced by the American and other governments.
Danin called Mubarak a man who generally "keeps his own counsel." The Egyptian leader does have a close relationship with Saudi King Abdullah, but Riyadh has generally been expressing support for Mubarak, Danin noted.
"I suspect (King Abdullah's) heart is with Mubarak right now," Danin said.

Obama Condemns Violence, Calls for Change

Clashes rage in Tahrir Square

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

The health ministry said at least one person had been killed and another 400 injured in Wednesday's violence.

Al Jazeera correspondents, reporting from the scene, said clashes were still raging and that petrol bombs were being hurled.

"Someone - a few people actually - are dropping homemade bombs into the square from the buildings surrounding it. Gunshots occasionally ringing out across downtown," our online producer said.

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.
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".

Camels & horses storm into Tahrir square as protesters clash in Cairo

Egypt's Protests Inspire Russian Opposition Activists

The leaders of Russia's opposition have long been looking for a new refrain - something beyond their hackneyed chants of "Russia without Putin!" - and on Monday night, when they gathered for a protest in downtown Moscow, they seemed to have found one. It came off as a kind of Egypt envy, the revolutionary bug that has afflicted many of the world's dissidents since an uprising broke out a few weeks ago in Tunisia and spread to Egypt. For Russia's opposition, the events in the Arab world have raised some frustrating questions: What's the difference between our leaders and Egypt's teetering President? Why won't the revolution come to us?
By some measures, there doesn't seem to be much difference between the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and that of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Many of the social ills that have pushed Egyptians to revolt are just as bad in Russia - and in some cases, they're worse. (See pictures of the aftermath of the recent bombing at Domodedovo Airport in Moscow.)
According to Transparency International's ranking of the most corrupt countries last year, Egypt was in the 98th place, tied with Mexico, while Russia was 154th. Economic troubles like rising food prices, unemployment, poverty and the vast gap between rich and poor are also comparable in the two countries. The latest data from the U.N. Development Program shows 16.7% of Egyptians lived below the poverty line in 2005, compared with 19.6% in Russia in 2007. The jobless rate is also about equal. In Egypt it was 9.4% at the end of 2009 and it was 9.2% in Russia at the start of 2010, according to most the recent figures in the CIA's World Factbook.
On Monday night, such comparisons came easily to the leaders of the Russian opposition, who are banned from politics and frequently arrested for their activism. From atop a truck bed rigged up with a microphone in Moscow's Triumphal Square, Boris Nemtsov, the opposition's de facto leader, bellowed, "For 30 years, power has been in the hands of the corrupt and thieving dictator Mubarak. But how is he different from our leaders?" A dozen voices in the crowd responded, "They are the same!" A new slogan then seemed to catch on as the rally progressed: "We won't wait 30 years!" (See "TIME's Exclusive Photos: Turmoil in Egypt.")
Earlier, the liberal wing of President Dmitri Medvedev's Kremlin also appeared to have caught the revolutionary itch when Igor Yurgens, an economic adviser to Medvedev, warned that Russia could become like Tunisia if Putin decides to take back the presidency in 2012. "Everyone is fed up with seeing the same face," Yurgens told Bloomberg news agency on Jan. 18. For an official of Yurgens' rank, it was a shocking slight against the Prime Minister.
But for all their dramatic effect, comparisons between Russia and Egypt don't hold much water, as two of the opposition leaders admitted to TIME on the sidelines of Monday's rally. For one thing, the Arab world has seen a demographic boom in recent years that has made for a young and restless population. Many of the people setting fire to barricades and stoning police in Egypt are younger than 15, an age-group that makes up about 40% of the population. Russia is exactly the opposite, said Vladimir Ryzhkov, an ex-parliamentarian turned dissident. "Our people are aging and in decline," he said, looking around at the pensioners who made up the bulk of the meager crowd at Monday's event, a regular anti-Putin protest held on the 31st of the month. "Also," he added, "the high price of oil [Russia's main export] has allowed the regime a certain cushion of economic stability." (Comment on this story.)
There is also the timid political culture inherited from the Soviet Union, which spent four generations literally breeding dissent out of the population, says Sergei Kovalyov, a famous Soviet dissident who is now a leading campaigner for human rights. "In the field of natural selection, Josef Stalin had a real gift," says Kovalyov. Stalin realized soon after taking power in 1922 that a nation still high on the ideals of the 1917 revolution would not put up with him for long, and he slowly began to purge the population of anyone prone to free thought. By most estimates, this process killed off as many as 20 million people and nearly wiped out the intellectual class. "In the end, it created a nation genetically immunized against dissent," says Kovalyov. "This has been a great gift to our current leaders." (See the top 10 autocrats in trouble.)
Still, as the feeble opposition was preparing for Monday's rally, Russia's leadership wasn't taking any chances. The opposition's offices were raided by police on Sunday, and the antiriot troops surrounding the square outnumbered the protesters by about 3 to 1. Some of the organizers were even detained before they reached the square, with one of them, Sergei Udaltsov, stopped on suspicion of using a fake subway ticket on his way to the protest and held just long enough to miss it. (See Russia's efforts to crack down on terrorism problems.)
The rally ended less than an hour after it began, and its elderly participants peacefully dispersed, leaving their leaders to stand around discussing the fury in the Arab world. A light snow fell on their heads, and the square became quiet. It looked absolutely nothing like Cairo.

Pro- and anti-government supporters clash in Cairo

Several thousand supporters of President Hosni Mubarak, including some riding horses and camels and wielding whips, attacked anti-government protesters Wednesday as Egypt's upheaval took a dangerous new turn. In chaotic scenes, the two sides pelted each other with stones, and protesters dragged attackers off their horses.
The turmoil was the first significant violence between supporters of the two camps in more than a week of anti-government protests. It erupted after Mubarak went on national television the night before and rejected demands he step down immediately and said he would serve out the remaining seven months of his term.
Wednesday morning, a military spokesman appeared on state TV Wednesday and asked the protesters to disperse so life in Egypt could get back to normal. The announement could mark a major turn in the attitude of the army, which for the past two days has allowed protests to swell, reaching their largest size yet on Tuesday when a quarter-million peace packed into Cairo's central Tahrir Square.
Nearly 10,000 protesters massed again in Tahrir on Wednesday morning, rejecting Mubarak's speech as too little too late and renewed their demands he leave immediately.
In the early afternoon Wednesday, an Associated Press reporter saw around 3,000 Mubarak supporters break through a human chain of anti-government protesters trying to defend thousands gathered in Tahrir.
Chaos erupted as they tore down banners denouncing the president. Fistfights broke out as they advanced across the massive square in the heart of the capital. The anti-government protesters grabbed Mubarak posters from the hands of the supporters and ripped them.
The two sides began hurling stones and bottles and sticks at each other, chasing each other as the protesters' human chains moved back to try to shield the larger mass of demonstrators at the plaza's center.
At one point, a small contingent of pro-Mubarak forces on horseback and camels rushed into the anti-Mubarak crowds, swinging whips and sticks to beat people. Protesters retaliated, dragging some from their mounts, throwing them to the ground and beating their faces bloody.
Protesters were seen running with their shirts or faces bloodied, some men and women in the crowd were weeping. A scent of tear gas wafted over the area, but it was not clear who had fired it.
The army troops who have been guarding the square had been keeping the two sides apart earlier in the day, but when the clashes erupted they did not intervene. Most took shelter behind or inside the armored vehicles and tanks stationed at the entrances to Tahrir.

Mubarak concessions 'insufficient'

Unimpressed by president Hosni Mubarak's speech on Tuesday night, in which he vowed not to renew his rule, thousands of Egyptian protesters remain holed up in Cairo's central Tahrir Square, adamant in their demand that the president must step down.

Mubarak, in his defiant speech, announced he would surrender power, but only in September at the end of his term in office, after which he would not seek re-election.

But protesters reacted angrily, jeering him and once again calling for an immediate end to his 30-year reign.

"The speech is useless and only inflames our anger," said Shadi Morkos in Tahrir square. "We will continue to protest."

"We will not leave! He will leave!" others chanted at the time.

Meanwhile, pro-Mubarak demonstrators were engaged in a standoff with anti-government protesters in Cairo on Wednesday after they marched into the anti-Mubarak rally in Tahrir Square.

The Mubarak supporters gathered earlier to reaffirm their commitment to his administration. The crowd had chanted: "With our blood and our souls, we will sacrifice for Mubarak," Al Jazeera's Jacky Rowland reported from the demonstration.

She said people were "frenzied" and the atmosphere was tense, with potential battle lines being drawn between the two sides of the Egyptian divide. Pro and anti government demonstrators have already clashed in Alexandria and Cairo following Mubarak's speech.


Al Jazeera's Jane Dutton, reporting from Cairo, said there is now a "real standoff" between anti-government Egyptians and Mubarak, with neither side seeming to budge in the others' direction.

The ball is now in the protesters' court, Dutton said.

"[Mubarak] has given them what they want. He has said he will step down, just not yet. And he has offered them all these concessions, demands that they have made over many years, for other parties to run in the elections, for there to be a fixed term under the president."

"But it's too and little too late," Dutton added. "People are angry that these sort of changes are being imposed or suggested under a dictatorship, under this regime. They want him to go and they want him to go now."

Speaking to Al Jazeera after Mubarak's speech, protesters in Cairo echoed these same sentiments. "I want to say that this man is provoking us. This man wants to have a massacre in this country that has been good to him and his children." one male demonstrator told Al Jazeera.


"Chants of 'Down with the regime! Down with the president!' started up again about 30 seconds after he was done with the speech," Ashraf Khalil, a journalist based in Cairo, told Al Jazeera.

"Talking to the protesters in Tahrir Square, those who are remaining have made it clear that his latest concessions are unacceptable. They have no intention of giving him some sort of eight month farewell tour. They want him gone immediately and they plan to keep the pressure up," Khalil said.

But to those demanding he leave Egypt, Mubarak said on Tuesday: "This is my country ... and I will die on its soil."

Reaction to Mubarak's speech has been strong and swift. Immediately afterwards, Barack Obama, US president, said "orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful, and it must begin now."

But much of the reaction was registered on social networking sites, which have become a vehicle for anti-government protests. A flood of responses on the microblogging site Twitter mostly seemed to favour the Egyptians call for the president to cease power.

"Mubarak said he wants to die in Egypt - careful what you wish for!" one user called Guapo Plethora tweeted.

Another, Iyad El-Baghdadi, tweeted "Live from Tahrir Square: Everyone considers Mubarak an ex-President and think his days are numbered."

Mona Eltahawy, a columnist and public speaker on Muslim and Arab issues, also tweeted saying, "It's Mubarak vs Egypt and Egypt must win. Armed forces [have] to understand. There is no way Mubarak can stay til September. OUT."

Opportunity for real change

Al Jazeera's correspondents on the ground in Egypt reported similar sentiments. "I was in Tahrir Square for Mubarak speech and once they heard offer to not run again, chanting started "get out get out". Dan Nolan tweeted.

Later he added "Nobody there believes any of his promises any more. They know this is their opportunity for real change and won't stop til it happens."

Ayman Mohyeldin, another correspondent, tweeted that "History may be repeating itself. Former Tunisian president Ben Ali gave three speeches and [vowed not to run again for elections].

Early into Wednesday, protesters in Cairo held up banners stating "Remove the regime", Al Jazeera's Dutton reported.

She said demonstrators were determined not to move, and were planning other major protests to take place after Friday prayers.

"The protesters I spoke with really do think Friday might be the day they drive Mubarak from office. They are very optimistic, they are jubilant," Ashraf Khalil said.