Mubarak Supporters Face Off Against Opponents
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Its MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And I'm Renee Montagne.
After nine days of owning the streets of Cairo, crowds protesting the rule of Hosni Mubarak found themselves clashing today violently with those on the other side.
Over the last few hours, supporters of the man who's ruled Egypt for 30 years have poured into the streets and into Liberation Square. Some plowed into the crowds of anti-Mubarak demonstrators on camels and horses and began fighting with sticks and fists.
All of this comes on the heels of two dramatic developments. President Mubarak said he would not run again for office, and the army called on those protesting Mubarak's regime to go home.
NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro has been in Liberation Square and joins us to talk about it. And Lulu(ph), tell us what you've been seeing.
LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, the situation is extremely chaotic still. What we're seeing is the anti-Mubarak protesters trying to hold Liberation Square, almost like they're trying to hold a fortress. They've built makeshift barricades and that has become essentially the front line. They are throwing stones over the barricades at each other, and literally as I'm standing here I'm seeing wounded streaming past me of people with many cuts from the stone-throwing that has unfolded here.
The army has done absolutely nothing to stop these two opposing forces from clashing. In fact, not only have they done nothing, they have disappeared.
MONTAGNE: They have disappeared, and they were in the vicinity with tanks, from what I've heard and seen. Tear gas we've heard about we've heard about tear gas and shots? Have you experienced that?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Absolutely. We're seeing tear gas canisters fired. We've heard several shots. The majority of the fighting, though, seems to be with rocks for the moment. I mean right next to me people are sort of bashing at the pavement and trying to and trying to basically smash the pavement to get pieces of rock and stone to hurl at the other side.
I think it's very important to note that the protesters here, the anti-Mubarak protesters, really feel that this has been a deliberate attempt to discredit them.
They say that the pro-Mubarak protesters are not civilians that have come out to laud the leader. They say rather that they are members of the police and security forces who are here to sew chaos so that Hosni Mubarak can then impose the rule of law again, or the iron fist, as they call it.
MONTAGNE: Is there any way for you to ascertain if that's case, you know, to figure out exactly who the pro-Mubarak protesters are who have come out in such force and so suddenly today?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's very difficult. You know, we've seen people that they say are plain-clothed policemen be surrounded, dragged and beaten through the streets here. The lines(ph) at the moment seem to be pretty well kept. So the pro-Mubarak protesters have been pushed back behind the barricades, but it was very chaotic earlier in the day with, as you mentioned, forces and camel charges and the two groups intermingling, and that led to many confrontations.
Let's not forget that yesterday we saw hundreds of thousands of people turn out peacefully to demonstrate, and they are pointing that out. They're saying, how could we have had hundreds of thousands of people come out to peacefully demonstrate and then today see this kind of violence?
And I am just now hearing more shooting that is coming from the front lines of this Liberation Square battle.
MONTAGNE: Is there any way for you to know who is firing the shots?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's extremely difficult to know right now. I really have no way of knowing what is going on.
MONTAGNE: And any way of knowing what's ahead?
GARCIA-NAVARRO: I can tell you what they fear is ahead. Definitely the demonstrators here took these statements by the military, that they asked the protesters to go home, to say that they felt now that the army was against them, and they feel because the army has not intervened, and they sorry, there's people being wounded people being taken past me and they're pushing past me with blood flowing down their faces. I'm sorry if I sound a little like I have to move. But they feel that the army hasn't reacted, and that clearly shows that their sympathies have shifted and that they are now with the government. They actually see the army as an - in opposition to them. Yesterday you'd see these moving scenes of protesters hand and hand with army officers. That is certainly not the feeling here today.
The feeling here today and the fear here today is that the military, the police force, the government of Hosni Mubarak, is about to crack down.
MONTAGNE: Well, Lulu, you take care of yourself and thank you very much.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: You're welcome.
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