Violence has erupted with in Cairo’s Tahrir Square overnight, with supporters of president Hosni Mubarak opening fire on anti-government demonstrators, killing at least two and wounding 15.
The Egyptian military has had the square ringed with tank squads to try to keep order, but the troops had so far not intervened to prevent the deadly shootings.
Al Arabiya television quoted a doctor at the scene as saying one protester was killed when a barrage of gunfire rang out across the square at around 0400 am (0200 GMT). Other reports said two had been killed and as many as 15 people had been wounded.
“People are too tired to be terrified,” al Jazeera television quoted a 33-year-old woman in the square as saying.
But she said protesters who launched an unprecedented challenge to Mr Mubarak’s 30-year-rule last week would not give up. “We cannot go back at this point.”
Hours earlier, supporters of Mr Mubarak armed with rocks, sticks and firebombs charged into the square in what appeared to be an orchestrated assault against protesters.
Amid the mounting chaos, the US State Department issued a stark travel warning for US citizens in Egypt, urging those who want to leave to “immediately” head for the airport, adding that any delay was “not advisable.”
“All remaining US citizens who wish to depart Egypt on a US government flight and who are able to do so should immediately proceed to the HAJ Terminal 1, Hall 4 as soon as possible on February 3,” the State Department said in a statement, referring to the location within Cairo’s international airport.
“Additional US government flights after Thursday are unlikely.”
Mr Mubarak had promised on Tuesday to surrender power in September, angering protesters who want him to quit immediately and prompting the United States to say change “must begin now”.
After days of peaceful protests the situation became violent when supporters of the president, throwing petrol bombs, wielding sticks and charging on camels and horses, attacked protesters in Tahrir Square in what many saw as a government-backed attempted crackdown.
The Interior Ministry denied the accusation, and the government rejected international calls to end violence and begin the transfer of power.
In pointed comments, a senior US official said it was clear that “somebody loyal to Mubarak has unleashed these guys to try to intimidate the protesters”.
At least 145 people have been killed so far and there have been protests across the country. United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay said up to 300 people may have died. Telegraph