Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak no longer wants to be leader, but fears his country is too unsteady to abandon. “I am fed up. After 62 years in public service I have had enough. I want to go. But if I resign today, there will be chaos,” he told ABC journalist Christiane Amanpour.
But the country is already in chaos, with 10 people left dead after fighting yesterday in Tahrir Square between Mubarak loyalists and pro-democracy protestors.
“Al Jazeera’s online producer in Cairo said: ‘The battle for downtown Cairo on Thursday has taken on an almost medieval quality, with protesters erecting makeshift barricades and building homemade catapults to launch rocks at each other.
“‘Close-range combat ensued for several hours, with hand-to-hand combat near the barricades erected by pro-democracy protesters. Both sides threw hundreds of rocks back and forth.'”
Al Jazeera is regularly updating a photo gallery on Flickr with photos made available for other media organisations to use. A warning: some of the photos in that gallery are quite graphic…
“Foreign journalists were beaten with sticks and fists by pro-government mobs..,” reports Huffington Post. Large numbers of journalists and human rights activists were arrested, including three Al Jazeera reporters who were arrested and later released. An Australian ABC reporter and his Foreign Correspondent crew also report being attacked. The LA Times reports:
“The BBC, New York Times, Associated Press, CNN and Washington Post all reported that foreign journalists’ equipment was taken or that journalists were being arrested and detained. The Washington Post reported their Cairo bureau chief Leila Fadel had been arrested, along with at least one dozen other journalists.”
There is now a “tense calm” in Tahrir Square.
“I do not want to see Egyptians fighting each other,” Mubarak told Amanpour, but he also feared that if he immediately resigned the banned Muslim Brotherhood party would take control.
Egypt’s vice-president, Omar Suleiman, told Amanpour that protesters had “legitimate grievances”, but that the government believed it had met requests and would not tell armed forces to attack demonstrations. “We will never authorise force against the people,” said Suleiman.
US president Barack Obama suggested Mubarak needed to engage with protesters, and should leave before September. “Obama is a very good man, but I told Obama ‘you don’t understand the Egyptian culture’,” he said.