Tahrir's Liberation Square Turns Violent

CAIRO, Egypt -- It rapidly became clear today that President Mubarak's words had only enflamed the streets in Cairo. CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric reports pro-Mubarak supporters flooded the square. Some rode in on horses and camels, brandishing weapons and hurling rocks.

Ibrahim Kamel, General Secretariat of Mubarak's administration, praised the new wave of protesters and dismissed the protesters demanding change.

"I am sorry to say that these people that are standing in the square are not Egypt or the Egyptians," he said.

Kamel said they are "part of a minority that is intent on dealing with Egypt and the regime a blow that I hope will never happen."

As Couric and Kameel spoke, gunshots rang out from the square below.

"Given what we're seeing behind us at this moment," Couric asked, "do you truly believe there can be a peaceful transition of power while President Mubarak is still in office?"

"100 percent. There will be a peaceful transition of power," Kameel replied. "I am sure that what you are witnessing today will be something of the past and hopefully sooner than you will think."

Complete Coverage: Anger in the Arab World

But by nightfall it had only escalated. Molotov cocktails and firehouses replaced the sticks and stones of the afternoon clashes.

One message posted on Twitter spoke volumes: "oh my God, oh my God, we are in Tahrir Square, they are killing us. The thugs have killed us."

No stranger to conflict, Marie Colvin of the Sunday Times lost her eye covering the Sri Lankan civil war. She was in thick of things as pro-Mubarak supporters converged.

"They came with pieces of machinery, they came with rocks, they came with knives and they came to try to clear Tahrir Square of the anti-government supporters who have started fighting back but were bloodied in the beginning," Colvin said. "They are now chopping up the pavement to throw rocks back it is mayhem down there."

"Did the Mubarak government orchestrate this," Couric asked.

"This has been organized on some level by the Mubarak government," Colvin replied. "They were bused in. Some of them were paid. Quite a few are government employees and that simply does not happen in Egypt without official sanction."

Meanwhile, it was unclear what role if any the Egyptian military was playing.

"They are sitting in their tanks, they are intervening on neither side," Colvin said. "The protesters felt they were there to protect them, they are not doing anything tonight."

Today the White House strongly denounced the fighting.

"If any of this violence is instigated by the government it should stop immediately," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.

Shock waves of unrest continued to ripple through the Middle East today, as the president of Yemen announced he would not seek re-election after his term expires in 2013.

In Egypt, the government is calling for a return to normalcy. Today it restored internet access, but there is no sign the protesters will back down until Mubarak leaves office. They declared Friday the day of departure - the day they want him gone. Mubarak has offered no evidence he will agree to that demand.

"It's going to get worse," Colvin said. "Everyone is saying and I believe it will happen - Friday will be a really decisive day and very violent day."
  • Katie Couric

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