Egypt riots death toll feared to be 300 as Mubarak mob moves in on eighth day of street protests
- Army turns water cannon on protesters in desperate bid to end violence
- Mubarak supports charge Liberation Square on horses and camels
- Rocks and concrete blocks hurled at pro-democracy demonstration
- World leaders call for calm as situation spirals out of control
Thousands of supporters of President Hosni Mubarak today attacked anti-government protesters as fresh turmoil gripped Egypt.
Backers of the president, who last night agreed to relinquish his grip on power, fought with the crowds in Cairo's Tahrir (Liberation) Square, injuring more than 600 people.
Some rode into the ranks on horses and camels while wielding whips. In chaotic scenes, they pelted each other with stones, large sticks and machetes.
The death toll since protests began eight days ago is now thought to be as high as 300, according to Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Reports to the world body from nongovernmental sources in Egypt also suggest that more than 3,000 people have been injured.
Many of those who demonstrated in support of the regime today are believed to be secret police in plain clothes. There were reports that concrete blocks has been hurled on pro-democracy protesters.
The army has stood by and refused to intervene so far. But there are growing fears that there will be a massacre. Opposition leader Mohamed ElBarawi said that Mr Mubarak was using 'scare tactics' to stay in power.
'I'm extremely concerned. My fear is that it will turn into a bloodbath,' he said.
The White House said the U.S. was 'deeply concerned' about the attacks on media and peaceful demonstrators.
Bloodshed: Protesters comfort each other (left and right) after being injured during the protest while a veil-clad woman gathers rocks in her hands ready hurl
The morning - the eighth day of protest - began peacefully enough with a fresh round of protests in Tahrir Square.
But for the first time thousands of Mr Mubarak's supporters descended on the massive public space, the scene of a yesterday's 250,000 strong demonstration.
Around 3,000 supporters of the 82-year-old leader were seen breaking through a human chain of anti-government protesters as they tried to defend the thousands gathered in the Square.
Chaos erupted as they tore down banners denouncing the president and fistfights broke out as they advanced across the plaza.
The two sides started hurling
stones, bottles and sticks at each other and gave chase. At one point,
some pro-Mubarak forces rushed in on horses and camels swinging whips
Extraordinary scenes: Supporters of President Mubarak charged the ranks of demonstrators with camels and horses
Charge: Like the scene of a mediaeval battle, pro- and anti-government protesters face each other and clash
Protesters retaliated - dragging them from their horses and throwing them to the ground then beating them.
People were seen running with their shirts and faces bloodied while some men and women in the crowd wept.
Tear gas was believed to have been deployed, though it was not clear who had fired it.
The demonstrations appeared to be
the start of an attempt by Mr Mubarak's three-million strong National
Democratic Party to retake momentum from protesters demanding Egypt's
nearly 30-year ruler step down immediately.
In a broadcast last night, he had promised to step down at elections in December. But his opponents say that this is simply not soon enough.
Egypt’s band of opposition parties,
including the banned Muslim Brotherhood, have begun to coalesce around
the figure of Mohamed El Baradei, a Nobel Peace laureate for his work
as head of the UN nuclear agency.
Yesterday in Cairo, effigies of Mr
Mubarak were hung from lamp-posts, as people screamed for him to quit,
likening him to Hitler and a donkey.
Khaled Osman, 40, a tourist guide
from Aswan, said: ‘I am so happy that the old man has finally given up.
But he must go now. And we will stay here campaigning until he goes.
'The game is over, he knows that.’
Tourist guide Mohammed Al Gawad, 33, from Hurghada, said: ‘We have had enough of his brutality. We want to be free.
‘We want to decide our own destiny.
And we want jobs. These are the things that Mubarak has not given us.
He just stole our money.’
Formidable: Thousands of Mubarak's supporters marched through the streets (left) while their opponents resorted to hacking bricks apart with sticks to make more projectiles
Arrests: Pro-Mubarak protesters captured by anti-government supporters are handed over to the army
Cairo's international airport was a
scene of chaos as thousands of foreigners sought to flee the unrest,
and countries around the world scrambled to send in planes to fly their
Some tourists even reported being
forced to pay bribes to policemen before being permitted to board what
planes did manage to take off.
An estimated 18,000 were still stuck
there yesterday, although many British citizens and other holidaymakers
in Sharm el Sheikh and the Red Sea resorts are staying put.
Even having a ticket was no guarantee that tourists could get on a flight, it has emerged.
'People holding tickets had
difficulties getting on the plane, because the airport in Cairo is pure
chaos,' Canadian tourist Tristin Hutton said Tuesday after his plane
landed at Germany's Frankfurt airport.
Aggression: Mubarak's supporters, many believed to be plain clothed police, threw rocks and concrete blocks from the rooftops
A pro-Mubarak protester clamber up on a tank in Liberation Square (left) as demonstrators from rival camps tussle in the street
'The terminals are full of panicking
people. The ground staff is disappearing, and at the gate, just before
entering, we all together had to collect $2,000 for a policeman at the
door... He would not let us pass without paying.
Internet service also began
returning to Egypt after days of an unprecedented cutoff by the
government, and state TV said authorities were easing a nighttime
curfew, which now runs from 5pm to 7am instead of 3pm to 8am.
The various protesters have little in common beyond the demand that Mubarak go.
the most significant tensions among them is between young secular
activists and the Muslim Brotherhood, which wants to form an Islamist
state in the Arab world's largest nation.
more secular are deeply suspicious as the Brotherhood aims to co-opt
what they contend is a spontaneous, popular movement. American officials
have suggested they have similar fears.
The outlawed Muslim Brotherhood remains Egypt's largest opposition movement.
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In a nod to the suspicions, Brotherhood figures insist they are not seeking a leadership role. 'We don't want to harm this revolution,' Mohamed Mahdi Akef, a former leader of the group.