Anti-government protesters and supporters of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak clashed yesterday near a central Cairo square in a rerun of overnight violence that killed six and wounded more than 800 people.
A Reuters witness said the latest outbreak of fighting was in a side street leading to Tahrir (Liberation) Square, where several thousand people had joined the hundreds of others who had camped overnight.
Army tanks yesterday began moving to block Mubarak loyalists from reaching anti-regime demonstrators the square, reporters said.
Tanks reversed to block Mubarak supporters coming down a key bridge from reaching the square, while one tank and several soldiers tried to push Mubarak loyalists away from the protesters.
The army gave heart to the protesters on Monday by endorsing their demands as legitimate and pledging not to open fire on them. However, since Tuesday evening, when Mubarak responded to the protests by saying he would not stand for re-election in September, the soldiers have largely stood by without intervening.
“One way or another we will bring Mubarak down,” some protesters chanted in the early morning. “We will not give up, we will not sell out,” others shouted.
Despite the overnight violence the square remains in the control of anti-government protesters.
“We are using these stones as a means of defense. Yesterday they attacked us with Molotov cocktails and all we have to protect ourselves with is stones,” protester Ali Kassem said.
Though protesters were fewer than in previous days, the level of public dissent remains unprecedented in the heavily policed state.
Television footage showed army units in the area arresting people in civilian clothes.
Some protesters say the pro-Mubarak supporters have been paid for by the Mubarak’s National Democratic Party.
Egypt’s health minister said six people were killed in the overnight violence and 836 wounded, 86 of whom were still in hospital.
Al-Arabiya television, without citing sources, said more than 10 were killed and 1,500 wounded.
Meanwhile, Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman and Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq have started a dialogue with “political parties and national forces,” state TV said.
However, the opposition Coalition for Change has rejected any talks before Mubarak steps down. It includes Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Kefaya movement and others.