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Clashes erupt between protesters, Mubarak supporters

posted 2 Feb 2011, 06:04 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 2 Feb 2011, 06:06 ]

The Egyptian army uses teargas to disperse pro and anti-Mubarak supporters clashing in Cairo's Tahriri Square

Opponents and supporters of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak fought in central Cairo on Wednesday (February 2) in what appeared to be a move by the strongman to stamp out nine days of protests calling for him to quit.

Protesters said some of the Mubarak supporters were members of the hated police forces in plain clothes. Some rode into the crowd on horses and camels and in horse-drawn carriages, wielding whips and sticks.

People fought each other with fists, sticks and stones while troops surrounding the square made no attempt to intervene.

Reuters correspondents saw dozens of injured. Many people fled in panic.

The fighting broke out as international pressure grew on Mubarak to quit and his closest ally, the United States, told him bluntly that a political transition must begin immediately.

After Mubarak went on national television on Tuesday (February 1) night to say he would not stand in elections scheduled for September, the armed forces said the protesters' demands had been heard and it was time for them to clear the streets.

Soon after several hundred pro-Mubarak supporters entered Tahrir (Liberation) Square, where a few thousand protesters had gathered, and the clashes broke out, witnesses said.

It was the ninth day of protests that erupted last week as public frustration with corruption, oppression and economic hardship under 30 years of rule by Mubarak boiled over.