Mubarak supporters were out in the streets for the first time Wednesday in large numbers, with thousands demanding an end to the anti-government movement 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.
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 Mubarak posters from the hands of the supporters and ripped them.
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.
Almost immediately after Mubarak announced late Tuesday night that he would serve out the remaining seven months of his term and would not leave the country, groups of Mubarak supporters rarely seen before in the week of anti-government protests took to the streets, some carrying knives and sticks.
In Alexandria, clashes erupted right after Mubarak's address between the two sides.