Mubarak Supporters Face Off Against Opponents Supporters of embattled President Hosni Mubarak took to the streets Wednesday, clashing with demonstrators seeking his ouster. The clashes came as the government began loosening restrictions and Internet services were returned. The army also issued a statement telling Egyptians it's time to go home and help the nation get back to normal.
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Mubarak Supporters Face Off Against Opponents

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Mubarak Supporters Face Off Against Opponents

Mubarak Supporters Face Off Against Opponents

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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And Lulu, what is the situation right now, there around you?

LOURDES GARCIA: It is extremely chaotic, Renee. I don't know if you can hear the crowd, but there is a faceoff between pro-Mubarak supporters who have been trying to push into Tahrir Square, Liberation Square, the epicenter of the anti-Mubarak protests. I'm seeing wounded people being taken past me. The two sides have been slinging stones at each other and other projectiles. And they are now right in front of me, facing off - the pro-Mubarak supporters trying to push in, the anti-Mubarak supporters pushing back. And the army, sitting back and not doing anything to intervene.

MONTAGNE: And is this the sort of violence that also has not been seen before?

GARCIA: Clearly, the government here, pushing back against days and days of protests that have pretty much completely paralyzed the city and this country.

MONTAGNE: Now, have you been able to ask people, in a sense, what they're thinking? Because for a while there, it looked like things had calmed down and even before maybe taking a break.

GARCIA: Yesterday, the protests were extremely peaceful and the protesters really felt that they had momentum on their side. Hosni Mubarak, then coming out and saying that he was going to see out his term but not seek reelection. The crowd felt that that was a victory, but not enough. And so we've seen protesters come out here today. Now you have the pro-Mubarak demonstrators saying that they want Mubarak to remain in power. They want stability. And clearly, the two sides are facing off, and it has gotten extremely ugly.

MONTAGNE: So that call to return home didn't calm people, in fact kind of the opposite. It seems to have set some people off, wondering what - whose side the army is on and maybe not on the protester's side.

GARCIA: And now we have these groups of people facing each other off. These are two - you know, Egyptians versus Egyptians. It's not clear if this - if the pro- Mubarak groups are organized by the government and have been sent out deliberately. It's very chaotic and it's very unclear what the situation is at the moment.

MONTAGNE: Now, one thing - the Internet is back on, has been back on. When it had been shut off by Mubarak's regime for days, what - is there any sense that that has anything to do with this turn of events?

GARCIA: Well, I think the government has done a few things. They turned the Internet back on. You have the statement from the military, saying, you know, it's time to calm things down. Let's get back to work. And then they've also eased the curfew by a few hours. And I think what they want to do is show that things are back to normal. That, you know, the protester's demands have been met. And it's business as usual in Egypt. Unfortunately, I'm standing in the middle of Tahrir Square, and that is simply not the case.

MONTAGNE: So it all sounds highly volatile. Is there any sense of where this is leading?

GARCIA: It's really not clear, at the moment, where this is leading at all. Again, you know, the situation right in front of me is extremely chaotic. One side, thousands of anti-Mubarak demonstrators, on the other, thousands of pro-Mubarak demonstrators coming together and no one is separating them at all.

MONTAGNE: We will keep following this as it moves along. Thank you for calling us. Just take care of yourself there in the middle of that crowd.

GARCIA: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, speaking to us from Liberation Square in Cairo.

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