Last night, I watched live video streams and blogs from Egypt. For ten days, demonstrators had owned Tahrir square with many thousands holding the centre of Cairo demanding the dismantling of the Mubarak regime. Yesterday, the situation was destabilized as ruffians arrived in force armed with clubs, knives and Molotov cocktails. There was even a “cavalary charge” by supporters of Mubarak. The army that had taken a neutral stance but standing by allowed the ruffians to attack the demonstrators with great carnage resulting. Overnight, 7 were killed and 800 were wounded. Reporters from around the world were roughed up. Much of their coverage is now from rooftops or windows of buildings overlooking the square.
Today, the newly appointed prime minister apologized for the carnage and around sunrise the military became more active and set up a cordon between the pro and anti-Mubarak protesters. Machine-gun fire into the air was used to get the attention of both sides. By sunrise the numbers of protestors was greatly reduced and they were exhausted. Supplies and re-inforcements began to stream in. It was a very close thing. Either side could have routed the other last night with only a small reinforcement. I expect today both sides will reorganize. It is pretty clear that the pro-Mubarak ruffians were organized and at least passively supported by the army. Combatents carrying governmnet ID cards showing they were with the police were seized. Some pro-Mubarak protestors seem genuinely motivated by resistance to change or a desire to cointinue their employment/business.
Global response has been clear with advice to have change to democracy sooner or later. The violence has persuaded moderates that only violence will effect change. The anti-Mubarak protestors realize that if they withdraw they will be hunted down and subdued. Their main hope for the future is to win the mini-civil war. Everyone seems to want to avoid a global civil war but Mubarak and his supporters are not yet persuaded that change must come soon.
We wait and see.