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5 fatally shot in 2nd day of bloody clashes; amid outcry, Egyptian PM apologizes
Thousands of Mubarak supporters, whipped up by state television and spoiling for a fight, flooded into Cairo's downtown at midday. They engaged in a pitched battle with Mubarak's opponents on a street alongside the Egyptian Museum, while the army mostly stood by.
The president's supporters fueled the showdown with a charge by men riding camels and horses, wielding whips and clubs. Both sides then went at it with rocks, sticks and firebombs. Hospitals reported that three people had been killed Wednesday and more than 600 injured.
Mubarak's opponents said they would not back down from their quest to force him from office. But Mubarak loyalists seemed to be pushing back with new vigor. Omar Suleiman, the new vice president, said Wednesday that there would be no dialogue with the opposition until the protests stopped, while Egypt's Foreign Ministry said that calls from Washington and other capitals for Mubarak's swift exit were intended to "incite the internal situation" in the country.
By Thursday, the square was filled once more with anti-Mubarak demonstrators, and the mood had definitively shifted. Where once a popular slogan was, "We're going to stay in the square," now it is, "We're going to die in the square."
Volunteers transformed a mosque into a hospital, emptying bookshelves of holy texts in order to stack bandages, gauze and antiseptic. At the travel office, demonstrators used plastic wrist restraints to handcuff Mubarak loyalists hauled into custody, and showed reporters police identification cards that had been found on some of those allegedly inciting violence.
Saal el Ravi, a doctor working at the makeshift hospital, said the five who were fatally shot arrived between 3:30 and 5:30 a.m., he said. Dozens of others were treated for less serious gunshot wounds, he said. Doctors said hundreds of others came in with head and body wounds caused by rocks, fists and sticks.
"They were killing our people," said Arafat Hussein, 25, a worker at the Ministry of Health who said pro-Mubarak forces fatally shoot two of his friends--one in the head, the other in the heart, he said. He had recovered a shell casing, which he said had been fired by a Kalishnikov rifle. He showed it to anyone willing to stop and look.
Nearby, in an abandoned travel agency office, anti-government protesters had created a temporary jail. Angry mobs were bringing in captives, including several whose identification cards said they were police officers or members of Mubarak's National Democratic Party.
One heavy-set captive denied he was with the police, but his jailers said a card found on him identified him as Major Osama Kamal Mohamed, of the Interior ministry. Mohamed's jailers lifted his arms up behind his back, trying to get him to confess, and he cried out in pain. A protester called him a "drama queen." Another, dentist Ibrahim al Hakim, said, "This is what they would do to us."
Mubarak's supporters, seemingly energized by his announcement Tuesday, essentially laid siege to Tahrir Square Wednesday, where for nine days protesters calling for the president's ouster have claimed the attention of Egypt, the Middle East and the rest of the world.
Anchors on state-run television heavily promoted the "pro-stability" rally, and buses and trucks dropped off loads of government backers at sites downtown. The owners of a factory said they had been told by the ruling National Democratic Party to mobilize their workers for the demonstration, a move that has been a standard practice here for decades. Many who took to the streets appeared to have come prepared for the vicious fight that ensued.
The Internet, which had been cut off for most of the past week, came back on in late morning; some anti-government demonstrators suspected that it was used to help coordinate the counter-rally. The night before, the army had sent text messages to Egyptians calling on them to protect their country from destruction.