On Wednesday, one day after Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak announced that he would not run for re-election in September, anti-government protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square abruptly turned violent as pro-Mubarak demonstrators charged the crowds, some riding camels and horses and wielding whips. The clashes have left 3 dead and 639 injured according to the latest numbers released by government officials.
But just who are the pro-Mubarak demonstrators and why has it taken them so long to emerge? The protests, after all, have been going on for 9 days. Suspicions arose almost immediately that the Mubarak government was ordering and paying people to protest on its behalf.
Shadi Hamid, a Brookings Institution analyst based in Qatar, told CNN that the “use of hired muscle to break up demonstrations ‘is a longtime regime strategy.’”
“There are usually a line of thugs outside a protest who are waiting there,” he said. “They’re dressed in plain clothes, and then they’ll usually go and attack the protesters. Egyptians have seen this for quite some time, and that’s why they were able to recognize what was going on fairly quickly.”
In fact, CNN reports that journalist and protester Reham Saeed said she saw men with police uniforms go into hotels on the way to Tahrir Square and then come out wearing civilian clothes, joining the pro-Mubarak protesters.
CNN also said that when some pro-Mubarak protesters were captured by opponents, they were terrified, and begged for their lives, screaming that the government had paid them to come out and protest.
MSNBC said that CNN’s Frederik Pleitgen reported that some men he had spoken to on Wednesday claimed that they were state oil company workers who had been ordered to join regime supporters on the streets.
Analyst Kamal Zakher told CNN the government mustered government workers and lawmakers whose seats are threatened,. “These (pro-Mubarak) protests were organized by the government and the ruling National Democratic Party” he said.
“They were ordered to go out today. They are well organized and that is suspicious — especially the use of camels and horses. These are abnormal techniques to demonstrate,” he said, referring to the estimated 50 to 60 mounted men who rode through Tahrir Square Wednesday afternoon.
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