Fresh Violence Erupts as Gunfire Rocks Cairo
Critics charge Mubarak with launching attack
By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser User
Posted Feb 3, 2011 1:18 AM CST
Updated Feb 3, 2011 4:22 AM CST
Pro-government demonstrators clash with anti-government demonstrators as a palm tree burns from a firebomb in Tahrir Square early today.   (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
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(Newser) – New violence erupted before dawn today as Hosni Mubarak's supporters opened fire on protesters with automatic weapons, several news outlets reported. A stream of ambulances transported bloodied demonstrators from Tahrir Square as protesters chased down some of the attackers, witnesses said. At least one of the weapons was a heavy machine gun, but the shootings appeared to be largely the work of plainclothes police, and not members of the army. "They're coming in with weapons. They're spreading violence," a human rights activist told CNN.

At least five people have been killed in clashes yesterday and today, with hundreds wounded. Critics charge that the attacks are being being orchestrated by Mubarak and his ruling party using paid baltageya security forces to trigger a military crackdown. Tanks and soldiers are stationed around the square, but have not yet been drawn into the clashes. Soldiers have deployed water cannons, but only to extinguish flames ignited by firebombs, reports the New York Times. Opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei is demanding that the army step in to protect demonstrators: "I expect the Egyptian Army to interfere today."