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Days 8 & 9 of the Egyptian Revolution:
Attacks by Mubarak Forces on Protesters in Tahrir Square

February 3, 2010

Editors Note:

The following is a long account of two days of attacks by the Mubarak forces (undercover security elements, members of the ruling Party DNP, and hired thugs) on freedom and democracy protesters in the Tahrir Square, in Cairo, Egypt.

The attacks involved molotov cocktail bombs, using horses and camel riders with whips, knives and machetes, as well as rocks.

The opposition parties have been preparing for an astaunding response to these attacks by launching an enormous protest day all over Egypt tomorrow after the Islamic Friday prayers. They have been calling it the "Departure Protest," after which they expect Mubarak to depart from office or the country.


Protesters killed as gunfire breaks out in Cairo

At least three people were reported killed and scores more were injured early on Thursday after supporters of President Hosni Mubarack shot at anti-government protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square, prompting condemnation from around the world.

By FRANCE 24 (video)

February 3, 2010

News Wires (text)  

Three people were killed in gunfire aimed at anti-regime protesters in Tahrir Square in central Cairo early Thursday, taking the death toll over the last 24 hours to six, a medic said.
"Three people were killed by gunshots in the past three hours," said Dr. Amr Bahaa at a makeshift hospital set up at a mosque near Tahrir (Liberation) Square.

In Pictures: Violent clashes in Cairo's Tahrir Square
"Most of the casualties came in in the last three hours, many with gunshot wounds," he told AFP, putting the total number of wounded since Wednesday at more than 1,000 people.
Witnesses said there were many people hurt by gunfire coming from the October Bridge where partisans of embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak were positioned.
Egyptian Jurists Alliance said in a statement that anti-Mubarak protesters in Tahrir Square were coming under fire and that several had been killed or wounded.

France 24's Nathan King reports from Tahrir Square
The gunfire came after backers of Mubarak stormed the Cairo stronghold of anti-regime protesters, sparking clashes in which the government said three people were killed on Wednesday.
The US State Department issued a stark travel warning for citizens in Egypt, urging those who want to leave to "immediately" head for the airport, adding that any delay was "not advisable."
Washington, which has called for restraint since demonstrations broke out 10 days ago, deplored the violence against "peaceful protesters" while UN chief Ban Ki-moon said the attacks on demonstrators were "unacceptable."
America's top diplomat Hillary Clinton condemned the "shocking" bloody clashes Wednesday, in a call to Vice President Omar Suleiman.
The State Department said Clinton had called Suleiman, telling him the violence "was a shocking development after many days of consistently peaceful demonstrations."
"The secretary urged that the government of Egypt hold accountable those who were responsible for violent acts," the State Department added in a statement.

EGYPT Egypt's opposition: Thousands take to the streets – now what?

"Secretary Clinton also underscored the important role that the Egyptian Armed Forces have played in exercising restraint in the face of peaceful demonstrations and expressed concern that all parties recommit themselves to using only peaceful means of assembly."
The European Union added its voice Wednesday to calls from US President Barack Obama for the transition from Mubarak's three-decade-long rule to begin immediately after the veteran president announced late on Tuesday that he would not seek re-election in September.
But the Egyptian foreign ministry said such calls "sought to inflame the internal situation," while Suleiman, who was appointed this week, insisted there could be no dialogue with the opposition until all the protesters went home.
From early afternoon until well into the night, regime supporters and opponents threw stones and battled with sticks and fists in Tahrir Square, the epicentre of the 10 straight days of protests that have rocked the Egyptian regime and sent shock waves around the Arab world.
Tensions had been rising from early morning when Mubarak supporters began staging their own rallies around Cairo, saying the president represented stability amid growing insecurity, and branding as "traitors" those who want his departure.


A hard core of tens of thousands of anti-regime protesters had remained at Tahrir Square through the night, angry at the 82-year-old's refusal to step down immediately in line with the demands of opposition leaders.
Witnesses and AFP correspondents said bands of Mubarak supporters raided the square without warning, some on camels or horses, creating mayhem that quickly degenerated into violent clashes.
Regime supporters dropped concrete blocks on the opposition protesters from the roofs and balconies of surrounding buildings.
The worst of the fighting was just outside the world-famous Egyptian Museum, which was targeted by vandals last week.
AFP correspondents saw scores of wounded carried to a makeshift hospital in a mosque near Tahrir Square, and a medic there said the injury toll ran into the hundreds.
Health Minister Ahmed Hosni Farid told state television 639 people were wounded in the clashes in the square on Wednesday.
Both sides continued throwing rocks and skirmishing into the night, with army and civilian ambulances taking the wounded away.

Anti-regime protesters stopped handing over pro-Mubarak militants to the army as they said they were just being released. Instead, they kept some 30 of those they captured at an improvised prison near a metro station.
The captives were badly beaten, an AFP correspondent reported.
Several foreign journalists covering the confrontations in Cairo became the target of violent attacks, a media watchdog and news organisations said.
Correspondents, photographers and cameramen reporting on the fierce clashes in Tahrir Square said that the Mubarak supporters were hostile to the press.
Media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said the "shocking" attacks appeared to be in revenge for the coverage the protests.
Protesters have said they will proceed with plans for a massive demonstration on Friday, their designated "departure day" for Mubarak.
US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said the attacks on the protesters were a "direct threat" to the Egyptian people.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that there was a battle afoot in Egypt between those who favoured democracy and those who wanted to enforce an Iranian-style radical Islamist system, that could destabilise the key Middle East peace partner "for many years."

EGYPT Calls for more protests after a second day of Cairo clashes
EGYPT Reporter's notebook: Unappeased by president's speech, Tahrir Square protesters vow to fight on
EGYPT Egypt’s days of rage

Premier apologises for attack on protesters by government supporters

Egypt’s premier Ahmed Shafiq (pictured) apologised Thursday for an attack on protesters by supporters of President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo's Tahrir Square. Shafiq also offered to negotiate with the protesters, who are demanding that Mubarak resign.

By News Wires (text)  

AFP - Egypt's embattled government announced a slew of measures on Thursday aimed at defusing a bloody revolt and taking back the initiative, as protesters battled pro-regime militants for control of Cairo's Tahrir Square and spurned an offer for talks.
Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq apologised for the deadly violence that has raged in the square for more than 24 hours and that has been thought by many to have been sparked by government agents provocateurs.
In Pictures: Violent clashes in Cairo's Tahrir Square
"Egyptian hearts are bleeding," he said of the clashes in which at least five people were killed and hundreds hurt, and promised an enquiry.
The new premier also said he "ready to go to Tahrir Square to talk to the protesters" in a reversal of the government's stance since protests broke out on January 25.
Meanwhile, the public prosecutor said officials, including widely hated former interior minister Habib al-Adly, have been banned from travel and their accounts frozen pending investigation.
And Vice President Omar Suleiman called on security authorities to release detained youth "not involved in criminal acts."
In pictures: Major players in Egypt’s crisis
There have been no recent figures on arrests since unrest broke out on January 25, but at least 1,000 people were said last week to have been detained.
But a coalition of activists rejected Shafiq's offer, which runs counter to the regime's previous insistence that it would not talk with the opposition until protesters went home.
Amr Salah, a coalition representative, told AFP they "will not accept any dialogue with the regime until our principal demand is met, and that is for President Hosni Mubarak to step down."
As the protests entered their 10th day, the opposition National Association for Change rejected any talks with Mubarak's regime before the veteran leader goes, spokesman Mohammed Abul Ghar told AFP.
"Our decision is clear: no negotiations with the government before Mubarak goes. After that, we're ready for dialogue with (new Vice President Omar) Suleiman," he said.
The coalition includes leading dissident and Nobel peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, members of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, the Kefaya (Change) movement and other political parties.

EGYPT Egypt's opposition: Thousands take to the streets – now what?

Undaunted by what they say has been a regime campaign of intimidation, the protesters say they will proceed with plans for a massive demonstration on Friday, their designated "departure day" for the 82-year-old president.
Running battles in Tahrir Square, the focal point of the anti-Mubarak protests, broke out on Wednesday, raged through the night and were continuing sporadically more than 24 hours later.
The health ministry saying five people were killed and at least 836 hurt, while an AFP tally puts the death toll at seven.
More than 300 people have died since the unrest broke out and close to 4,000 injured.
Shafiq offered his "apologies for what happened yesterday," saying on state television that "there will be an enquiry."
He later told journalists he was unsure whether the attacks had been organised, and lamented that he did not have enough police to provide security.
"I don't know if it was organised or spontaneous," he told a televised news conference. "There were clashes. And clashes between youths are always more heated. It seems they were carrying some weapons.
Egypt's police disappeared from the streets on Friday night after two days of running street battles that caused most of the casualties so far.
"I do not have enough police," Shafiq said. "When the army moved in many of the riot police went back to their villages and we can't get them to come back."
Several foreign journalists have been the target of violent attacks, a media watchdog and news organisations said, apparently on charges of fuelling the uprising with their coverage.
That brought a sharp rebuke from the US State Department, which condemned a "concerted campaign to intimidate international journalists in Cairo and interfere with their reporting."
Early on Thursday, around 50 soldiers moved in to Tahrir Square to create a buffer zone, but pro-regime militants later broke through the lines to hurl stones, correspondents said.
In a renewed effort to separate the sides, army tanks pushed pro-Mubarak supporters away from the demonstration.
Mid-afternoon, intense gunfire could be heard from the square, an AFP reporter said.
On Thursday, regime supporters reappeared on the 6 October Bridge over the Nile, which opens into the square. One of them in a red jumper looked down at the crowd below and repeatedly drew a finger across his throat.
They threw fire crackers at the protesters, who fell back and then regrouped, shouting at the army for failing to intervene.
"Why aren't you doing anything? Why aren't you doing anything?"
Eventually, the protesters managed to get onto the bridge and began fighting the Mubarak supporters, stones flying everywhere.
In Tahrir Square itself, demonstrator Mohammed Ali, 23, told AFP: "I am here because my government is not good. They arrest people. There are no human rights."
Gesturing at pro-Mubarak demonstrators, he said: "This is Mubarak's mafia and they are trying to terrify us."
"We are not interested in negotiations. It's been 30 years of talking. Mubarak has to leave."
Abdelrahman Amr Zaki, 15, rejected what he said were claims the protests are just about economic conditions.
"They are not. My father drives a BMW and I have a very good home. There is no democracy, no freedom. We just want Mubarak to go."
 The United States condemned the violence against "peaceful protesters," and UN chief Ban Ki-moon said the attacks on demonstrators were "unacceptable."
US President Barack Obama had called for the transition from Mubarak's rule to begin immediately after the veteran president announced late on Tuesday that he would not seek re-election in September.
The Egyptian foreign ministry rejected the call from Obama and other world leaders, saying it "sought to inflame the internal situation."
On the economic front, the Fitch agency lowered Egypt's debt ratings by one notch, following the lead of Moody's and Standard & Poor's, due to the intensified violence.
And state television said Cairo's stock exchange will reopen on Monday after what will be a 10-day closure. The bourse was last open on January 27 when it plunged nearly 10 percent.
The US State Department issued a stark travel warning for citizens in Egypt, urging those who want to leave to "immediately" to head for the airport, while the British government said it was evacuating diplomatic family members and non-essential embassy staff.
And up to 600 UN agency employees and their families were to be airlifted to Cyprus on Thursday, with only essential staff staying on, a UN spokesman said.

EGYPT Protesters killed as gunfire breaks out in Cairo

EGYPT The battle for Tahrir Square: Egypt's ninth day of unrest

EGYPT Reporter's notebook: Unappeased by president's speech, Tahrir Square protesters vow to fight on

Mubarak says his resignation will bring chaos to Egypt

WASHINGTON, Feb. 3, 2011 (Xinhua) --

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said on Thursday that if he resigns today, there will be chaos in Egypt.

In a 30-minute exclusive interview with ABC television network, the embattled Egyptian president said he is "fed up" with being president and would like to leave office now.

But he said he cannot resign now for fear that the country would sink into chaos.

He told ABC's Christiane Amanpour at the presidential palace in Cairo that he is troubled by the violence over the last few days but his government is not responsible for it.

"I was very unhappy about yesterday, I do not want to see Egyptians fighting each other," Mubarak said.

Violent clashes erupted between supporters of Mubarak and protesters against him in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo on Wednesday, leaving at least six dead and more than 800 injured. In the ABC interview, Mubarak blamed the Muslim Brotherhood, a banned political party in Egypt, for the violence.

Egypt has seen the largest mass protests in 30 years since Jan. 25 challenging Mubarak's rule. The protests, still with no sign of a quick end, have left more than 100 dead and several thousand people injured. Some opposition groups have planned to organize mass protests again on Friday.

Mubarak told the nation on Tuesday that he would step down after the presidential elections in September.

He told ABC that he felt relief after the televised speech, saying "I never intended to run again. I never intended Gamal to be president after me."

As Mubarak's son, Gamal was once widely considered to be groomed as his successor. He joined his father in the interview.

The 83-year-old president pledged his loyalty to Egypt, saying he would never run away but "die on this soil." He also defended his legacy, recounting the many years he has spent leading his country.

The United States sees Egypt led by Mubarak as a close ally in the Arab world and has offered some 1.5 billion dollars in annual military and economic aid in the past years. But on Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama made a public call for orderly transition in Egypt right now.

When asked how he responded to the call, Mubarak said he told Obama that "you don't understand the Egyptian culture and what would happen if I step down now."

Editor: Mu Xuequan

Egyptian gov't, opposition in talks to end crisis

CAIRO, Feb. 3, 2011 (Xinhua) --

Egypt's Vice President Omar Suleiman said the government has started dialogue with the opposition parties and representatives of protesters to end the mass protests that began on Jan. 25.

The Muslim Brotherhood has been invited to meet with the government but they are still hesitant, Suleiman said in an interview with Egyptian state TV on Thursday.

Suleiman said he is meeting the representatives of Egyptian youth and other opposition parties in the coming two days, and that dialogue shouldn't exceed 10 days.

"Egypt faces a critical time following the protests," he said.

Suleiman, the former intelligence chief, was appointed as the country's first ever vice president for three decades last week. He said harmony between the Egyptian political parties need much time and dialogue.

The constitutional amendments will be left to public referendum and the amendment of 76 and 77 articles is a first step, said the vice president.

However, the amendments will require 70 days to pass, he added.

"We have a working plan starting with dialogue and choosing committees to study all issues separately and give them time to solve it," he said.

Suleiman said what happened in the Tahrir Square, the center of the mass protests, on Wednesday night, was a conspiracy.

Clashes between protesters and supporters of President Hosni Mubarak left at least six dead and more than 800 injured till Thursday, according to Egyptian Health Ministry.

Some people had their own agendas to exploit the youth revolution for their own interests, Suleiman said, indicating that they may be businessmen, foreign elements or militia infiltrators.

Military forces' task is to protect people with all their constitutional and lawful rights, but now it has a new role to protect citizens and stand against outlaws and looters, Suleiman said in the interview.

Suleiman also said a million tourists have flew out of Egypt in the past nine days. The country reported losses of 1 billion U.S. dollars in tourism.

Neither the president nor his son will run for the presidency, Suleiman added.

Suleiman also called on security authorities to release the detained youths who didn't participate in any violence acts during the clashes, and asserted that he guarantees that all youth demands will be fulfilled soon.

The vice president called protestors to go home and give the government a chance to protect them and regain normal life in Egypt.

Egypt has seen the largest mass protests in 30 years to challenge the rule of President Hosni Mubarak. The protests, still with no sign of a quick end, have left more than 100 dead and several thousand people injured, with a great impact on the normal life of citizens due to the closure of shops and disruption of rail and air services.

Some opposition groups have planned to organize mass protests again on Friday. Analysts say Friday will be a day to test whether the moves taken by the new government are effective or not in ending the unrest.

Editor: Mu Xuequan

Egypt general prosecutor bans some former ministers from traveling abroad

CAIRO, Feb. 3, 2011 (Xinhua) --

Egyptian general prosecutor Abdel Magid Mahmoud banned three ministers and a senior ruling party official from leaving Egypt on Thursday, according to state TV.

The former ministers of Interior, Housing and Tourism and the National Democratic Party official Ahmad Ezz were ordered to stay in Egypt. Their assets were frozen.

Habib El Adly, former Interior minister and Ezz were included in the black list accused of graft, seizing of and facilitating the seizure of public funds.

Such decisions are effective until the restoration of security and stability in this inflamed crisis after massive demonstrations.

Editor: Mu Xuequan

Egyptian president says ready to go but fears chaos: ABC

CAIRO, Feb. 3, 2011 (Xinhua) --

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said he would like to leave office but was afraid that chaos would spread across Egypt after that, the ABC TV reported Thursday.

During the interview, Mubarak said he did not want to see Egyptians fighting themselves, blaming the violence on the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

Mubarak said he never intends to seek another presidential term, said the report.

Egypt's Vice President Omar Suleiman said earlier Thursday that Mubarak's son will not run for the presidency either.

The massive anti-regime protests in Egypt have left more than 100 dead and several thousand people injured, with a great impact on the normal life of citizens.

Late Wednesday, anti-government protesters and supporters of Mubarak clashed in downtown Cairo's Tahrir Square, leaving eight dead and over 800 injured.

Editor: Mu Xuequan



Egypt chaos: Dozens of reporters beaten, arrested

Feb 3, 2011, 7:31 PM EST


Associated Press


Menacing gangs backing President Hosni Mubarak attacked journalists and human rights activists Thursday in an ugly turn in Egypt's crisis as government opponents pushed supporters out of Cairo's main square in a second day of battles. Organizers called for protesters trying to topple the regime to fill every square in the huge capital on Friday.

The new vice president, widely considered the first successor Mubarak has ever designated, fueled anti-foreign sentiment by going on state television and blaming outsiders for fomenting unrest. The government has accused media outlets of being sympathetic to protesters who want the president to quit now rather than serve out his term, as he has vowed to do.

Mubarak, 82, told ABC television in an interview that he was fed up and wants to resign. But he said he can't for fear the country would sink into chaos. He said he was very unhappy about the two days of clashes in central Tahrir Square.

"I do not want to see Egyptians fighting each other," he was quoted as saying.

The violence that had been concentrated in Tahrir spread around the city of 18 million, with a new wave of arson and looting.

Soldiers, mainly protecting government buildings and important institutions, remained passive as they have since replacing police on the streets almost a week ago. Few uniformed police have been seen around the city in that time, and protesters allege some of them have stripped off their uniforms and mixed in with the gangs of marauding thugs.

"When there are demonstrations of this size, there will be foreigners who come and take advantage and they have an agenda to raise the energy of the protesters," Vice President Omar Suleiman said on state television.

Pro-government mobs beat foreign journalists with sticks and fists Thursday. The Committee to Protect Journalists said 24 reporters were detained in 24 hours, including representatives of The Washington Post and The New York Times. Twenty-one journalists were assaulted, including two with Fox News.

One Greek journalist was stabbed in the leg with a screwdriver, and a photographer was punched in the face, his equipment smashed. The Arabic news network Al-Arabiya pleaded for the army to protect its offices and journalists, and Al-Jazeera said four of its correspondents were attacked. The BBC's foreign editor said security forces had seized the network's equipment in a hotel to stop it broadcasting.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs denounced reports of "systematic targeting" of journalists and the State Department described it as a "concerted campaign to intimidate."

"I think we need to be clear that the world is watching the actions that are taking place right now in Egypt," Gibbs said.

Human rights activists were also targeted. Military police stormed the offices of an Egyptian rights group as activists were meeting and arrested at least 30, including two from the London-based Amnesty International, Amnesty spokesman Tom Mackey said. New York-based Human Rights Watch said one of its activists was also among those arrested.

Amnesty's secretary-general Salil Shetty demanded their immediate release saying they should be allowed "to monitor the human rights situation in Egypt at this crucial time without fear of harassment or detention."

Mubarak's top ally, the United States, has pressed him to quickly transition to a democratic government but has said his earlier gestures, including forming a new government, were insufficient.

The crisis that began on Jan. 25 when protesters launched the biggest challenge ever to Mubarak's 30-year rule has grown perilous. The day after Mubarak went on television late Tuesday and refused to step down, thousands of his supporters attacked anti-government protesters in Tahrir Square, where they had held a peaceful vigil for days.

The Mubarak supporters started fierce battles with firebombs, machetes and chunks of pavement that lasted throughout the night and all day Thursday.

After nightfall, the fighting died down with protesters' hold on the square and nearby streets unbroken. Nearly 10,000 remained, some dancing and singing in victory as others - battered and bandaged - lay down exhausted to sleep or drank tea in the center of the rubble-strewn roundabout. Throughout the day, they gained in numbers and got supplies of food and medicine.

"Thank God, we managed to protect the whole area," said Abdul-Rahman, a taxi driver who was among thousands who stayed in the square through the night, hunkered down against the thousands besieging the entrances. "We prevented the pro-Mubarak people from storming the streets leading to the square." He refused to give his full name.

At least eight people have been killed and about 900 injured in the two days of fighting around Tahrir.

Many of the square's defenders had cotton padding and grubby bandages dangling from their faces, arms and legs. Others had chunks of rock stuck to their hair and clumps of dust in their beards. Many had the trimmed beards of Muslim conservatives, a sign of the Muslim Brotherhood's role in the fight. The Brotherhood is the country's largest opposition group but secular groups have led the protests.

Under an onslaught of international condemnation for Wednesday's assault on protesters by pro-Mubarak rioters, the government offered more concessions to the protesters, but that did nothing to calm the fury.

The anti-Mubarak movement has vowed to intensify protests to force the president out by Friday. The Facebook page that started the protest movement said supporters should gather at noon Friday on all Egyptian squares "so that we can put the last nail in the regime's coffin, and declare the victory of the Jan. 25 revolution." Friday is the weekend in Egypt and millions attend prayers at noon in thousands of mosques across the city.

Last Friday, there were fierce clashes between protesters and police after prayers. The hated police largely disappeared from the streets of Cairo after the clashes for reasons that remain mysterious. Mubarak, his new vice president and prime minister all promised to get to the bottom of their disappearance.

The attorney-general indicated that the former interior minister, Habib el-Adly, who was in charge of the police force when they left the streets, is a suspect in the investigation. He ordered an asset freeze and travel ban against el-Adly and the former housing and tourism ministers, who were among the unpopular millionaire businessmen who dominated the government Mubarak dissolved early Saturday.

In the capital on Thursday, a new wave of looting and arson began, after easing since the weekend. A fire raged in a major supermarket outside Sheikh Zayed, a suburb of the capital, and looters ransacked the building. A residential building neighboring a 5-star hotel on the Nile River corniche burned blocks away from Tahrir. Other fires erupted in the Cairo district of Shubra, north of the center, security officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

The military and the security forces appeared to be doing little to stop the looting or the Tahrir clashes. In the interview, Suleiman said without elaborating that the police had "lost some of its capabilities" and that the army was struggling to fill the void.

Protesters accuse the regime and the ruling party of organizing a force of paid thugs and police in civilian clothes to attack them Wednesday afternoon, sparking the violence that raged until Thursday night.

The prime minister apologized for Wednesday's assault and acknowledged it may have been organized, though he said he didn't know by whom. Suleiman promised that Mubarak's son Gamal would not run in presidential elections in September. Before the protests, Mubarak was widely expected to try to pass his power to his son in a hereditary succession, despite significant public opposition.

Suleiman also offered to hold negotiations on the country's future even with the regime's biggest domestic enemy, the Muslim Brotherhood. But he also accused the Brotherhood of inciting the violence.

Mubarak's regime has long rejected any talks with the Brotherhood, which calls for an Islamic state in Egypt, and has arrested thousands of its members in the past. The Brotherhood is among the many disparate anti-Mubarak groups organizing the protests, though secular activists have so far dominated the movement. All have rejected any dialogue with the government before Mubarak steps down.

The government's latest concessions would have been stunning just two weeks ago. But on Thursday they were drowned out by the chaos.

"Hosni Mubarak's every breath is a lie," said Assem Moussa, a 40-year-old businessman among the protesters. "All the promises and the concessions are part of the lies. He is trying to deceive the people."

Moussa pulled a white cloth out of his pocket, saying, "This is my funeral shroud. If I die here, I will die for our freedom."

During Thursday's fighting, bands of Mubarak supporters moved through side streets around Tahrir, trading volleys of stone-throwing with the protesters and attacking cars to stop supplies from reaching the protest camp. One band stopped a car, ripped open the trunk and found boxes of juice, water and food, which they took before forcing the driver to flee.

Fighting centered on and below a highway overpass 500 yards (meters) north of Tahrir's center that regime supporters had used as high ground to pelt the crowds. Protesters swept over the bridge in stone-throwing battles.

At one point, a police truck barreled wildly through the crowds under the bridge, mowing down several people in its path, according to footage aired on Al-Jazeera. Heavy barrages of gunfire were heard from time to time.

The morning saw a brief attempt by the military to stop the fighting - its first since the melee started Wednesday. But the troops stood aside when clashes resumed in the afternoon, moving inside their tanks and armored vehicles without intervening.

The Mubarak backers seethed with anger at a protest movement that state TV and media have depicted as causing the chaos and paralyzing businesses and livelihoods.

"You in Tahrir are the reason we can't live a normal life," one screamed as he threw stones in a side street.

The anti-Mubarak youths posted sentries on the roofs and balconies of buildings around the square to raise the alert of any approaching attackers and rain stones on them. Other lookouts in the streets banged metal poles against pedestrian barriers alarm when they sighted incoming Mubarak backers.

One sentry waved his arms in the air like an airport runway traffic controller, directing defenders carrying piles of stones as ammunition to a side street to fend off an assault. But then another sentry waved a hand across his chest horizontally in a new signal. The crowd understood: false alarm, and they melted back into the square.

An exodus of foreigners, meanwhile, continued for another day with the U.N. evacuating much of its staff. The vice president said 1 million foreign tourists have fled the country, costing $1 billion in lost revenues from one of Egypt's most important industries.

AP correspondents Hadeel al-Shalchi, Sarah El Deeb, Hamza Hendawi, Diaa Hadid, Lee Keath and Michael Weissenstein contributed to this report.

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