A wounded anti-government protester is tended to Thursday during clashes in Cairo, Egypt.AP PHOTO
CAIRO — Menacing gangs backing President Hosni Mubarak attacked journalists and human rights activists Thursday in an ugly turn in Egypt’s crisis as government opponents pushed supporters out of Cairo’s main square in a second day of battles. Organizers called for protesters trying to topple the regime to fill every square in the huge capital today.
The new vice president, widely considered the first successor Mubarak has ever designated, fueled anti-foreign sentiment by going on state television and blaming outsiders for fomenting unrest. The government has accused media outlets of being sympathetic to protesters who want the president to quit now rather than serve out his term, as he has vowed to do.
Mubarak, 82, told ABC television in an interview that he was fed up and wants to resign. But he said he can’t for fear the country would sink into chaos. He said he was very unhappy about the two days of clashes in central Tahrir Square.
“I do not want to see Egyptians fighting each other,” he was quoted as saying.
The violence that had been concentrated in Tahrir spread around the city of 18 million, with a new wave of arson and looting.
Soldiers, mainly protecting government buildings and important institutions, remained passive as they have since replacing police on the streets almost a week ago.
“When there are demonstrations of this size, there will be foreigners who come and take advantage and they have an agenda to raise the energy of the protesters,” Vice President Omar Suleiman said on state television.
Pro-government mobs beat foreign journalists with sticks and fists Thursday. The Committee to Protect Journalists said 24 reporters were detained in 24 hours, including representatives of The Washington Post and The New York Times, on the streets outside Tahrir Square. Twenty-one journalists were assaulted, including two with Fox News.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs denounced reports of “systematic targeting” of journalists and the State Department described it as a “concerted campaign to intimidate.”
“I think we need to be clear that the world is watching the actions that are taking place right now in Egypt,” Gibbs said.