Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Egypt Street Battles: How Cairo's Tahrir Square Turned into a War Zone Overnight

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Egypt Street Battles: How Cairo's Tahrir Square Turned into a War Zone Overnight

Article excerpt

Egypt's Army was absent during hours of fighting Wednesday night in which the antigovernment protesters were able hold off attacks from supporters of President Hosni Mubarak.

Protesters against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak held their ground in central Cairo overnight, despite coming under vicious and violent attacks by people who appeared to be organized by the government.

The military began to step in between the two sides Thursday morning. But it was absent during hours of fighting with rocks, sticks, and Molotov cocktails Wednesday night. Antigovernment protesters were able push their attackers back, finally holding them behind a front line created behind the Egyptian museum. Doctors at a makeshift hospital said at least three people had been killed in the fighting. Al Jazeera on Thursday reported that seven people were killed, and more than 800 wounded.

"We will never surrender," said anti-Mubarak protester, Mohamed Issam. "This is my war and we will fight for victory until the end."

In the early-morning hours Thursday, the protesters sheltered behind a barricade made of steel fencing taken from a construction site, listening to the steady thump of rocks hitting the wall as the pro-Mubarak attackers stood on a nearby bridge and hurled stones and flaming projectiles. Behind the barricade, men pounded on a metal fence, creating a rhythmic drumbeat to urge on the weary but determined protesters. A palm tree blazed after catching fire from a Molotov cocktail, and in its light young men stood atop a burned out car to hurl chunks of concrete at the people on the bridge. A woman in black robes wandered through the crowd, wailing.

Tearing up the streets

Behind the front lines was an organized and persistent battle effort. The pavement of the street beside the Egyptian museum was completely gone, and in its place were heaps of stones. Men sat on sidewalks, methodically breaking up the tiles into smaller pieces to use as weapons. Others gathered them onto trays and carried them to the front lines. Scores of men worked together to push burned-out trucks to the front to reinforce the barricade.

First-aid stations were set up to treat the wounded. …

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