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An injured anti-government protester is administered first aid in front of army vehicles during clashes in Tahrir, or Liberation square, in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011. (Tara Todras-Whitehill/Tara Todras-Whitehill/AP)
An injured anti-government protester is administered first aid in front of army vehicles during clashes in Tahrir, or Liberation square, in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011. (Tara Todras-Whitehill/Tara Todras-Whitehill/AP)

Clashes break out as pro-Mubarak Egyptians pour into the streets Add to ...

Thousands of pro-Mubarak Egyptians poured out of their homes and marched to the centre of the Cairo district of Mohandesin and into its side streets on Wednesday.

Several hundred pro-Mubarak demonstrators marched or drove to the President's residence in Heliopolis.

Gone is the barbed wire barricade of Tuesday, and the number of tanks is reduced.

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Instead the crowd chanted "Stay Mubarak, don't leave," calling out their support for the man they believed was inside.

Here, too, the people want everyone to know that the Tahrir protesters are not the only voice of Egypt.

"This is the majority of Egypt speaking," said one woman.

At least three of the bridges across the Nile are closed because of the volume of pro-Mubarak demonstrators streaming toward Tahrir Square.

On their own and in small and large groups, people, many draped in the Egyptian flag are chanting their support for President Hosni Mubarak. "Yes, Yes, Yes Hosni" they chant, and "Down with the coward Barradei," a reference to Mohamed ElBaradei one of the leading figures in the opposition anti-Mubarak movement.

Many carry signs that say "No to damage" a reference to recent looting, and "yes to Mubarak."

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Large crowds have begun to chant "Masr, Masr, Masr" meaning "Egypt, Egypt Egypt."

As they drew near to the Mustafa Mahmoud square, the crowd could be heard singing. Along the way horns are being honked in rhythmic support.

Already reports of hundreds of pro-government supporters attacked protesters Wednesday in Cairo's central square, where thousands were pushing ahead with demonstrations demanding the ouster of Mr. Mubarak a day after the president went on national television and rejected demands for him to step down.

Those calling for Mubarak to go have been out in Cairo and many other cities for more than a week, and they drew by far their largest crowd on Tuesday when at least a quarter million packed the central Tahrir Square and the downtown area around it. Hundreds of thousands more have turned out in other cities across this nation of 80 million.

Egyptian opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei warned of the risk of a bloodbath after clashes in Cairo on Wednesday between opponents and supporters of Mr. Mubarak.

Mr. ElBaradei repeated his call for Mr. Mubarak to step down immediately and accused the government of using "scare tactics" to try to cling on to power.

"I'm extremely concerned, I mean this is yet another symptom, or another indication, of a criminal regime using criminal acts," Mr. ElBaradei told BBC radio from Cairo, when asked about the clashes.

"My fear is that it will turn into a bloodbath," he added.

By early afternoon, an Associated Press reporter saw Mubarak supporters break through a human chain of anti-government protesters trying to defend thousands gathered in Tahrir. They tore down banners denouncing the president and fistfights broke out as they advanced across the massive square in the heart of the capital. A number of those involved were injured and some were bleeding from their heads.

The anti-government protesters grabbed pro-Mubarak posters from the hands of supporters and ripped them.

Supporters of Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak, wielding sticks and whips, charged on horses and camels towards Cairo's Tahrir Square, a Reuters witness said.

Another Reuters witness said protesters had told her that they believed that some of the pro-Mubarak supporters behind the clashes on Wednesday were plain clothes police.

The confrontations began just hours after a military spokesman went on national television and asked the protesters to disperse so life in Egypt could go back to normal. During the clashes, soldiers and tanks who have been guarding the square did not appear to intervene.

State television coverage of the demonstrations has flip-flopped from almost totally ignoring them in the first days to extensive coverage since Friday's mass "Day of Wrath."

Immediately after Mubarak spoke late on Tuesday, state television showed images of pro-Mubarak protesters in the square.

"The demonstrations I saw yesterday looked like they were orchestrated," said Mayan Fawaz, a 30-year-old PR professional, who saw nearly 2,000 pro-Mubarak demonstrations near the area of Cairo where she lives on Wednesday.

"If these people were really pro-Mubarak where on earth have they been the past week? People on the streets were saying these demonstrators were hired by the NDP (ruling party)," she said.

With files from Reuters and Associated Press

Download the MP3 of Patrick Martin's audio report.

Follow on Twitter: @globepmartin

 

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