Nine days into protests, supporter of President Hosni Mubarak have emerged en force to battle pro-reform protesters. After a day of clashes, violence continued into the evening, with the Egyptian army attempting to break up the crowd and stop the violence.
Wednesday night, Cairo’s Tahrir Square was ablaze with gunfire and fire bombs. A small anti-Mubarak regime brandishing sticks chased down the pro-Mubarak protesters, fighting with gunfire and Molotov cocktails. The Egyptian army attempted to counter the battle by firing into the air to break up the crowd, and eventually rolled into the square emitting a smoke screen from its tanks. When the smoke cleared, anti-Mubarak protesters then stopped a truck driven by a Mubarak supporter, dragged him out of his car, and beat him. That caused the army to intervene once again, spraying the square with tear gas. Finally, just after 5 a.m., the pro-Mubarak contingent seemed to have vacated the square. Watching above, MSNBC foreign correspondent Richard Engel called the scene “Mad Max.”
In response to the violence, the U.S. government told citizens living in Cairo that they should “report to the airport immediately” to board U.S. government planes home. Stopping short of ordering Americans home, the State Department warned that after Thursday, U.S. government flights out of Egypt are “unlikely.”
Beyond the square, officials are doubting the validity of the pro-Mubarak regime. Many are charging that the pro-Mubarak camp are actually paid citizens and plain-clothes police — and that’s angered the Obama administration. “If any of the violence is instigated by the government, it should stop immediately,” said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. How desperate is Mubarak to gain support? Today, the government sent out a mass text message urging citizens to demonstrate in favor of the president.