The Pharaoh struck back on the ninth day of the people’s revolt in Egypt.
Hundreds of supporters of Hosni Mubarak clashed with anti-government protestors in Cairo on Wednesday. The military also called for marchers to “go home”. This followed the besieged president’s statement on Tuesday night that he would step down in September, an offer rejected by the protestors who called for another mass rally on Friday.
Even as Mubarak’s supporters made their first appearance on the streets, the US and the rest of the world began publicly calling on him to step down.
In Cairo’s Tahrir (Liberation) Square, pro-government demonstrators charged at the crowds. Heavily outnumbered, many were pulled down from the horses and camels they were riding and beaten. Opposition leader Mohammed ElBaradei called on the army to stop the violence.
A more genteel display of support was seen in upscale Cairo neighbourhoods. There, men in designer sunglasses and women with expensive hairdos joined government employees to chant, “We love you Mubarak!”
“These demonstrators want to turn us into Somalia: poor and at war with itself,” said Samir Hamid, a war veteran.
Mubarak set the stage for the standoff when he said he wouldn’t contest the September polls, but would also not step down immediately. The opposition said it would accept only his immediate departure.
An alarmed international community began applying more pressure on Mubarak with US President Barack Obama telling the world the longtime leader’s transition from the presidency “must begin now”. This was echoed by other world leaders.