Unrest Continues in Egypt
Egypt’s prime minister apologized for an attack by government supporters on protesters in a surprising show of contrition Thursday, and the government offered more concessions to try to calm the wave of demonstrations demanding the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.
Vice President Omar Suleiman promised that Mubarak’s son, Gamal, will not seek to succeed his father in presidential elections in September, state TV said. The prospect that the president intends to hand power to his son has been opposed by many Egyptians.
Also, the prosecutor-general banned travel and froze the bank accounts for the former interior minister whose police led a bloody crackdown against the protesters last week and against two other former ministers who were among the unpopular millionaire businessmen wielding heavy influence in the previous government.
The steps came after the protesters who have camped out for days in central Tahrir Square fended off the assault launched Wednesday afternoon by regime supporters. The uncontrolled violence raged through the night, killing eight people as the two sides battled with rocks, sticks, bottles and firebombs and soldiers largely stood by without intervening.
The military finally took its first muscular action after a barrage of deadly automatic weapons fire against the protesters before dawn Thursday. Soldiers pushed back the pro-government attackers and took up positions between the two sides. Then Thursday afternoon, the soldiers largely stepped aside as the anti-government side surged ahead in the afternoon in resumed clashes.
With volleys of stones, the protesters pushed back their rivals swarmed onto a nearby highway overpass that their regime supporters had used as a high ground to batter them.
At the same time, Mubarak supporters carried out a string of attacks on journalists around the square. The U.S. State Department condemned the attacks, calling them a “concerted campaign to intimidate” the media — the latest in mounting criticism by Mubarak’s top ally.
One Greek print journalist was stabbed in the leg with a screwdriver, and a photographer was punched, his equipment smashed. Arab TV network Al-Jazeera reported two correspondents attacked. The army started rounding up journalists, possibly for their own protection.
The protesters accuse the regime of using paid thugs and policemen in civilian clothes in an attempt to crush their movement — tactics used by the ruling party and security forces in the past against opponents. The Interior Ministry denied any of its police were involved.
Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq acknowledged that the attack “seemed to have been organized” and said elements had infiltratated what began as a demonstration against the protesters to turn it violent. But he said he didn not know who, promising an investigation into who was behind it.