As thousands of protesters gathered in Cairo, on Thursday, to continue their call for President Mubarak to step down, they were attacked by anonymous individuals who identified themselves as ‘Mubarak supporters’ and hit the protesters with clubs, stones, Molotov cocktails and gunfire, killing five and injuring hundreds more.The Egyptian police and military, who had been out in force during the protests of last week, were still in place around the edges of the main square on Thursday, when the attacks on the demonstrators began. It’s unclear whether the gunfire originated with the military or the ‘Mubarak supporters’, but the military did pledge two days ago not to fire on demonstrators, and had not done so since.
The protesters set up an ad-hoc clinic near the site of the demonstrations, and a doctor there said that at least 45 people had been brought in for treatment of gunshot wounds and other serious injuries.
President Mubarak has, in the past, deployed plainclothes special forces known as ‘baltageya’ to attack demonstrations, and reporters on the scene at Thursday’s demonstration said that there was evidence that the ‘pro-Mubarak’ group resembled the baltageya. According to a New York Times reporter in Cairo, the ‘pro-Mubarak’ demonstrators arrived on buses, infiltrated the demonstrations, and at exactly 2:15 p.m., launched their attacks on the demonstrators with weapons they had hidden in their clothes and bags.
According to reporters present in the main square when the attacks began, the Egyptian military did not act to stop the violence, but also did not participate in attacking the demonstrators.
The protesters have been demonstrating since last week to call for an end to the President’s 30-year long regime, which they say is undemocratic and corrupt. Although Mubarak announced Tuesday that he would not run for re-election in November, protesters have continued to pour into the streets, demanding that Mubarak step down now.