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EGYPT: Government moves to restore normalcy fail as protests, clashes intensify

February 2, 2011 |  8:55 am

Camel-charge

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's government restored Internet access for much of the restive country on Wednesday and rolled back a curfew in a vain effort to signal an end to the nine-day-old challenge to his authority.

Anti-government protesters who ignored the 3 p.m. onset of curfew earlier in the week continued to defy it when it began at 5 p.m. Wednesday, when rival crowds of supporters and opponents of the embattled president clashed with fury in Cairo's central Tahrir Square. Mubarak loyalists riding horses and camels charged demonstrators at dusk, beating them with sticks, clubs and horse whips. Army soldiers who had previously remained neutral turned water cannons on the battling forces.

Before the fighting intensified, the Egyptian military called for an end to the demonstrations that have paralyzed economic life in the Middle East's most populous country.

"You are the ones capable of returning normal life to Egypt," military spokesman Ismail Etman said on state television. "Your message has arrived; your demands have become known."

The appeal for protesters to go home was seen as evidence the army, from which Mubarak emerged 30 years ago to take power, wasn't abandoning him despite his pledge Tuesday night that he won't seek reelection in the autumn.

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-- Carol J. Williams

Photo: A supporter of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak rides a camel through the melee between pro- and anti-Mubarak protesters Wednesday in Cairo's Tahrir Square. Credit: Chris Hondros / Getty Images

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