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Pro-government supporters turn violent hand in Cairo

by Jorge Hernandez on February 2, 2011

Tens of thousands of pro-government supporters riding camels and horses tore down barricades and poured into Tahrir Square in Cairo on Wednesday, which promptly erupted into violence and disrupted the momentary calm the protesters were experiencing for the past couple of days.

The fighting between opponents and supporters of the autocratic President Hosni Mubarak was punctuated with the lashing of whips, clubs, bricks and rocks.

Anti-government activists formed a human chain-link fence to keep Mubarak's supporters out. The army, which had pledged in recent days to not use force, eventually fired tear gas into the crowds.

Mubarak recently announced that he would not run for re-election in September, but maintained that he would remain in office until the fall.

His supporters called on the protesters to return home and that their message had been received after nine days of being camped out in the city's main square.

"Your message has arrived, your demands became known. You are capable of bringing normal life to Egypt," said military spokesman Ismail Etman, according to The Washington Post.

The protesters have continued to call for Mubarak's immediate resignation, however, and have been encouraged by President Barack Obama's support for a timely transition to democracy, the news source reports.

According to TIME.com, the fighting is "a signal that the battle over who will succeed Mubarak could turn extremely bloody during the weeks and months ahead."

The pro-Mubarak crowd was mainly composed of men, contrary to the increasingly diverse make-up of the anti-government protesters, which includes women, children, poor, wealthy, religious and secular citizens.

Some of the Egyptian protesters who spoke to The Washington Post alleged that the pro-government opposition did not appear to be made up of real Egyptians, but paid undercover police and loyalists.

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