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Friday, February 4, 2011

Egypt Protests Turn Violent

Eight days of peaceful demonstrations against the 30-year reign of Egypt’s President, Hosni Mubarak, turned violent yesterday as the president’s supporters engaged the protesters in a free for all. The Tahrir (Freedom) Square in Cairo which has been the central point of the demonstrations became a battlefield with rocks, sticks and even chairs used as missiles by opposing sides. Reports say at least one person was killed and over 400 people injured in the ensuing melee which threatened to turn Egypt into an anarchical state.

The violence began when Mr Mubarak’s supporters began to converge on the square from different directions, shouting slogans in support of the president and against the demand by thousands of protesters who have daily gathered there to demand the president’s resignation. “We are Egyptians too, and we want Mubarak, we like Mubarak,” said a member of the pro-Mubarak group. One of the placards they carried noted, “30 years of stability, nine days of anarchy.”

The protests continued into the night, in defiance of the curfew instituted by the government and sporadic shooting were heard near the square although it was not immediately clear who was doing the shooting. The Army released a statement saying it was not responsible for the gun shots. UN secretary General Ban ki-Moon also urged restraint saying, “Any attack on peaceful demonstrators is unacceptable and I strictly condemn it.”

As night descended on the city, the violence seemed to wane and ambulances were finally seen inside the square trying to evacuate the injured. Although the different groups of protesters had by then stopped fighting, the square was hardly deserted as people continue to troop in even as security men turned their water hoses on the crowd. The streets of Cairo were also said to be manned by civilians who erected roadblocks, checking people’s identity cards before letting them past. Reports say a general feeling of insecurity pervaded the nation which has been for decades one of the most stable Arab nations.

Coiled out of