- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 2, 2011

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt | The 9-day-old uprising in Egypt took a dark turn Wednesday, as pro-government demonstrators riding horses and camels clashed with pro-democracy protesters hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails in riots that broke out across the country.

The government reported that three people were killed and more than 1,500 were wounded in conflicts, as thousands of Egyptians continued to take to the streets to demand the immediate end of President Hosni Mubarak’s nearly 30 years in power.

In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in a phone conversation with newly appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman, condemned the violence and encouraged the Egyptian government to hold those responsible fully accountable.

Mrs. Clinton told Mr. Suleiman that the transition to a reformed government must start immediately, even though Mr. Mubarak said in a nationally televised address Tuesday that he would remain in office until September to oversee the transition.

In Alexandria, Egypt’s second-largest city, protests included anti-Mubarak demonstrators, who have flooded the streets for more than a week.

CONFRONTATION: Pro-government demonstrators (bottom), some on horses and camels and armed with sticks, clash Wednesday with anti-government protesters (top) in Cairo's Tahrir Square. On Wednesday, about 200 Americans were flown out of turmoil-racked Egypt. (Associated Press)
CONFRONTATION: Pro-government demonstrators (bottom), some on horses and camels and armed with ... more >

But unlike previous days, an aggressive pro-regime contingency joined in and demanded the end of the uprising. “Mubarak, 100 percent,” said one man as the crowd cheered and waved flags.

Near Alexandria’s largest train station, a fight broke out after some protesters began chanting, “We’re soiled with blood. We defend you, Mubarak.”

The violence shows that Mr. Mubarak and Mr. Suleiman are trying to wrest the advantage from the opposition by resorting to old tricks, said Marina Ottaway, director of the Middle East program at the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Some activists in Alexandria said the outburst of pro-Mubarak activity was a plot to discredit the uprising, divide the people and give the police a legitimate cause to intervene.

Other Egyptians said the demographics of the government supporters cast suspicions on the sincerity of the new dynamic at the demonstrations.

“Look at the anti-regime protesters and the Hosni Mubarak supporters,” said Alexandrian Hossam al-Shafeey. He noted that in the past week, the uprising had drawn supporters of every age and socioeconomic status and both sexes. The pro-regime demonstrators appeared to be primarily strong young men, he said. “It should be a mix of all the nation on both sides.”

Others said the pro-Mubarak demonstrators suddenly appeared because many Egyptians changed their position after the president’s speech on Tuesday.

Mr. Mubarak promised to reform laws that cripple opposition parties, impose term limits on presidents and fight corruption — and to retire at the end of his term. “I will work in the remaining months of my term to take the steps to ensure peaceful transfer of power,” he said.

“What he outlined is a process that is completely controlled by the government without participation from the opposition, and they are not going to settle for it,” Ms. Ottaway said in Washington.

Other Arab leaders, facing similar protests inspired by the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, already have begun to make concessions to their increasingly demanding people.

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