Gunfire as new Cairo clashes erupt


Anti-government protesters throw stones during clashes in Cairo (AP)

Another bout of heavy gunfire and clashes have erupted in the Cairo square at the centre of Egypt’s anti-government chaos.

New looting and arson spread around the capital as gangs of thugs supporting President Hosni Mubarak attacked reporters, foreigners and human rights workers, and the army rounded up foreign journalists.

Gunfire rang out in central Tahrir Square, where Mr Mubarak’s supporters and opponents have been fighting for more than 24 hours.

At least eight people have been killed since the clashes erupted on Wednesday afternoon.

Security officials said a fire is raging in a major supermarket outside Sheikh Zayed, a suburb of the capital, and looters are ransacking the building. Another building much closer to the square and next to a five-star hotel tower overlooking the Nile River is also on fire.

The officials said other fires had erupted in the Cairo district of Shubra, north of the centre. The violence came despite attempts by the Army to separate the two sides.

Earlier, Egypt’s prime minister apologised for an attack by government supporters on protesters in a surprising show of contrition.

The government offered more concessions to try to calm the wave of demonstrations demanding the president’s removal. Vice-president Omar Suleiman promised that Mr Mubarak’s son, Gamal, will not seek to succeed his father in presidential elections in September, state TV said.

Also, the prosecutor-general banned travel and froze the bank accounts for the former interior minister whose police led a bloody crackdown against the protesters last week and against two other former ministers who were among the unpopular millionaire businessmen wielding heavy influence in the previous government.

The anti-Mubarak movement has vowed to intensify protests to force the president out by Friday.

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