Violent Clashes Between Rival Camps In Egypt

Tahrir Square in central Cairo was the scene of violent clashes between opposition protesters and pro-government supporters, with dozens reported injured, on the ninth day of political unrest in Egypt on Wednesday. Thousands of people from the two sides attacked each other with sticks and rocks, with some reports of knives being drawn and the sound of gunfire. The clashes spilled over into side streets, with some people being trampled as they tried to escape the chaos. Opposition protestors accused the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) of having paid thugs and police officers posing as civilians to confront them and 'liberate Tahrir Square with blood.'

Pro and anti-Mubarak supporters clash during rioting at Tahrir Square in Cairo February 2, 2011. Opponents and supporters of Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak fought with fists, stones and clubs in Cairo on Wednesday in what appeared to be a move by forces loyal to the Egyptian leader to end protests calling for him to quit.

Tahrir Square in central Cairo was the scene of violent clashes between opposition protesters and pro-government supporters, with dozens reported injured, on the ninth day of political unrest in Egypt on Wednesday.

Thousands of people from the two sides attacked each other with sticks and rocks, with some reports of knives being drawn and the sound of gunfire. The clashes spilled over into side streets, with some people being trampled as they tried to escape the chaos.

Opposition protestors accused the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) of having paid thugs and police officers posing as civilians to confront them and 'liberate Tahrir Square with blood.'

The military, stationed at checkpoints around the square, appeared to be trying without success to calm the situation. There were unconfirmed reports of pro-government demonstrators having taken control of armoured military vehicles.

Soldiers detained several people and were calling on people to go home. The military also called on NDP supporters to refrain from attacking the protestors who have been calling on President Hosny Mubarak to step down.

Crews from broadcaster Al-Arabiya and other foreign media said they were attacked by the pro-government camp. Egyptian newspaper al- Masri al-Youm meanwhile said it was evacuating its offices after the headquarters of another independent daily was ransacked.

Mubarak on Tuesday night pledged to step down at the end of his term in September. Opposition supporters have however vowed to press on with their demands for the immediate resignation of the man who has ruled Egypt for nearly 30 years.

Over the past week, the reformist camp has staged the largest demonstrations the country has seen in generation.

Following the Mubarak's televised announcement on Tuesday, some of his supporters began taking to the streets too, with the first clashes reported in Alexandria in the early hours Wednesday.

Mubarak said he use the remaining seven months in office for a 'peaceful handover' of power. The question being raised in Cairo however, is whether the apparent compromise would satisfy those calling for his departure.

Pro-government supporters of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (L) clash with anti-government protesters in Tahrir square in central Cairo February 2, 2011. Egypt's army denied firing any shots in Cairo's Tahrir Square, where pro- and anti-government protesters were clashing, state television said on Wednesday

Mohammed Mursi, a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, said, 'This satisfies none of the people's demands,' adding that the concession came too late.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohammed ElBaradei, who has emerged as an opposition figure, said: 'As always he is not listening to his people.'

The 82-year-old president's offer not to run for office again in September has also been dismissed by the April 6 Youth Movement.

'We reject that because it does not fulfill our demands,' a spokesman for the group said in Cairo. 'We will continue the protests until our demands are met, especially the call for the resignation of Mubarak and his government,' he said.

After Mubarak's televised address, US President Barack Obama said Egypt's transition to democracy and toward free and fair elections 'must begin now' and should allow all opposition figures to participate.

'What is clear, and what I indicated tonight to President Mubarak is my belief that an orderly transition must be meaningful, it must be peaceful, and it must begin now,' Obama said.

US media reported that Obama might have preferred a faster move to a transitional leadership in Egypt, a key ally which receives 1.5 billion dollars in aid annually, mostly to the military.

It was unclear if the US, which has entered into a dialogue with ElBaradei, would also be willing to speak with the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, still the country's largest organised opposition force.