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Gangs attack foreigners in Egypt's growing mayhem

 Anti-government demonstrators hand over to the the army a man, center with  red scarf, they suspect to be a supporter of Egyptian President Hosni Mub...
 An injured Egyptian doctor treats an injured suspected pro-government supporter, near Tahrir, or Liberation square in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Feb. 3,...
 Anti-government protestors throw stones during clashes in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011. Egypt's prime minister apologized for an attack by go...
 Egyptian doctors and medics treat an injured suspected pro-government supporter, near Tahrir, or Liberation square in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Feb. 3,...
 Egyptian anti government protesters throw stones during clashes in downtown Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011. New clashes are heating up again an...
 A man that anti government protesters suspected of been a plain clothed policeman is escorted by anti government protesters  during clashes in Cairo,...
 Anti-government protestors are seen atop burnt out vehicles during clashes in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011. Protesters and regime supporters ...
 A wounded anti-government protestor is tended during clashes in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011. Another bout of heavy gunfire and clashes erupt...
 Anti-government protesters pray while clashes with pro-government supporters take place behind them, near the Egyptian Museum in downtown Cairo, Egyp...
 Anti-government protestors throw stones during clashes in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011. Another bout of heavy gunfire and clashes erupted Thu...
 Anti-government protesters pray as clashes with pro-government supporters take place behind them on the other side of metal barricades, near the Egyp...
 An anti-government protestor holds an Egyptian flag during clashes in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011. Protesters and regime supporters skirmish...
 A wounded anti-government protester holds up his bloodied hand as he is carried by others back from clashes with pro-government supporters near the E...

Mideast Egypt

Anti-government demonstrators hand over to the the army a man, center with red scarf, they suspect to be a supporter of Egyptian President Hosni Mub...

Mideast Egypt

An injured Egyptian doctor treats an injured suspected pro-government supporter, near Tahrir, or Liberation square in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Feb. 3,...

APTOPIX Mideast Egypt

Anti-government protestors throw stones during clashes in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011. Egypt's prime minister apologized for an attack by go...

Mideast Egypt

Egyptian doctors and medics treat an injured suspected pro-government supporter, near Tahrir, or Liberation square in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Feb. 3,...

APTOPIX Mideast Egypt

Egyptian anti government protesters throw stones during clashes in downtown Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011. New clashes are heating up again an...

Mideast Egypt

A man that anti government protesters suspected of been a plain clothed policeman is escorted by anti government protesters during clashes in Cairo,...

Mideast Egypt

Anti-government protestors are seen atop burnt out vehicles during clashes in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011. Protesters and regime supporters ...

APTOPIX Mideast Egypt

A wounded anti-government protestor is tended during clashes in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011. Another bout of heavy gunfire and clashes erupt...

APTOPIX Mideast Egypt

Anti-government protesters pray while clashes with pro-government supporters take place behind them, near the Egyptian Museum in downtown Cairo, Egyp...

Mideast Egypt

Anti-government protestors throw stones during clashes in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011. Another bout of heavy gunfire and clashes erupted Thu...

Mideast Egypt

Anti-government protesters pray as clashes with pro-government supporters take place behind them on the other side of metal barricades, near the Egyp...

Mideast Egypt

An anti-government protestor holds an Egyptian flag during clashes in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011. Protesters and regime supporters skirmish...

Mideast Egypt

A wounded anti-government protester holds up his bloodied hand as he is carried by others back from clashes with pro-government supporters near the E...

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 second day of battles. Organizers called for protesters trying to topple the regime to fill every square in the huge capital on Friday.
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 said.
The uncontrolled violence that had been concentrated in Tahrir spread around the city of 18 million, with a new wave of arson and looting.
A light contingent of soldiers and tanks, mainly protecting government buildings and important institutions, remained passive as it has since replacing police on the streets almost a week ago. Few uniformed police have been seen around the city since last Friday, and protesters allege many of them have stripped off their uniforms and mixed in with the gangs of marauding thugs.
"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 in an interview on state television.
Mubarak's regime offered more concessions to the protesters, but that did nothing to calm the fury.
The crisis that began on Jan. 25 when protesters launched the biggest challenge ever to Mubarak's 30-year rule has taken a dangerous turn over the past two days. The day after Mubarak went on television late Tuesday and refused to step down, thousands of his supporters attacked anti-government protesters in Tahrir Square, where they had held a peaceful vigil for days.
The Mubarak supporters started fierce battles with firebombs, machetes and chunks of pavement that lasted throughout the night and all day Thursday.
After nightfall, the fighting died down with protesters' hold on the square and nearby streets unbroken. Nearly 10,000 remained in the square, some dancing and singing in victory as others _ battered and bandaged _ lay down exhausted to sleep or drank tea the center of the rubble-strewn roundabout. Throughout the day, they gained thousands in numbers and got supplies of food and medicine to reinforce.
"Thank God, we managed to protect the whole area," said Abdul-Rahman, a taxi driver who was among thousands who stayed hunkered in the square through the night, hunkered down against the thousands besieging the entrances. "We prevented the pro-Mubarak people from storming the streets leading to the square." He refused to give his full name.
At least eight people have been killed and about 900 injured in the two days of fighting around Tahrir.
Many of the square's defenders had cotton padding and grubby bandages dangling from their faces, arms and legs. Others had chunks of rock stuck to their hair and clumps of dust in their beards. A large number had the trimmed beards of Muslim conservatives, a sign of how the Muslim Brotherhood a major role in the fight.
The anti-Mubarak movement has vowed to intensify protests to force the president out by Friday. The Facebook page that started the protest movement said supporters should gather at noon Friday on all Egyptian squares "so that we can put the last nail in the regime's coffin, and declare the victory of the Jan. 25 revolution." Friday is the weekend in Egypt and millions attend prayers at noon in thousands of mosques across the city.
An Egyptian official said about 3,000 police from southern Egypt were headed overnight to Tahrir, exactly a week after they battled anti-government protesters then melted away from the streets for reasons that remain mysterious. Mubarak, his new vice president and prime minister all promised to get to the bottom of their disappearance.
The attorney-general indicated that the former interior minister, Habib el-Adly, who was in charge of the police force when they left the streets, is a suspect in the investigation. He ordered an asset freeze and travel ban against el-Adly and the former housing and tourism ministers, who were among the unpopular millionaire businessmen who dominated the government Mubarak dissolved early Saturday.
The redeployment of the hated police would be just another volatile ingredient added to the mix of an already explosive situation.
Pro-government mobs beat foreign journalists with sticks and fists Thursday. Security forces detained dozens of reporters, including representatives of The Washington Post and The New York Times, on the streets outside Tahrir Square.
One Greek journalist was stabbed in the leg with a screwdriver, and a photographer was punched in the face, his equipment smashed. The Arabic news network Al-Arabiya pleaded for the army to protect its offices and journalists, and Al-Jazeera said two of its correspondents were attacked. The BBC's foreign editor said security forces had seized the network's equipment in a hotel to stop it broadcasting. Others had their equipment smashed or stolen.
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.
Mubarak's top ally, the United States, has pressed him to quickly transition to a democratic government but has said his earlier gestures, including forming a new government, were insufficient.
Human rights activists were also targeted. Military police stormed the offices of an Egyptian rights groups as activists were meeting and arrested at least 30, including two from the London-based Amnesty International, Amnesty spokesman Tom Mackey said. New York-based Human Rights Watch said one of its activists was also among those arrested.
Amnesty's secretary-general Salil Shetty demanded their immediate release saying they should be allowed "to monitor the human rights situation in Egypt at this crucial time without fear of harassment or detention."
A new wave of looting and arson began, after easing since the weekend. A fire raged in a major supermarket outside Sheikh Zayed, a suburb of the capital, and looters ransacked the building. A residential building neighboring a 5-star hotel on the Nile River corniche burned blocks away from Tahrir. Other fires erupted in the Cairo district of Shubra, north of the center, security officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
The military and the security forces appeared to be doing little to stop the looting or the Tahrir clashes. In the interview, Suleiman said without elaborating that the police had "lost some of its capabilities" and that the army was struggling to fill the void.
"It's a huge burden on the armed forces to carry out police role that it didn't have before," he said.
Under an onslaught of international condemnation for Wednesday's assault on protesters by pro-Mubarak rioters, the government offered a series of gestures trying to calm the fury.
Protesters accuse the regime and the ruling party of organizing a force of paid thugs and police in civilian clothes to attack them Wednesday afternoon, sparking the violence that raged until Thursday night.
The prime minister apologized for Wednesday's assault and acknowledged it may have been organized, though he said he didn't know by whom. Suleiman promised Mubarak's son Gamal would not run in presidential elections in September. Before the protests, Mubarak was widely expected to try to pass his power to his son in a hereditary succession, despite significant public opposition.
Suleiman also offered to hold negotiations on the country's future even with the regime's biggest domestic enemy, the Muslim Brotherhood. But he also accused the Brotherhood of inciting the violence.
Mubarak's regime has long rejected any talks with the Brotherhood, which calls for an Islamic state in Egypt, and has arrested thousands of its members in the past. The Brotherhood is among the many disparate anti-Mubarak groups organizing the protests, though secular activists have so far dominated the movement. All have rejected any dialogue with the government before Mubarak steps down.
However the gestures _ which would have been stunning only a month ago _ were drowned out by the chaos.
"Hosni Mubarak's every breath is a lie," said Assem Moussa, a 40-year-old businessman among the protesters. "All the promises and the concessions are part of the lies. He is trying to deceive the people." Moussa pulled a white cloth out of his pocket, saying, "This is my funeral shroud. If I die here, I will die for our freedom."
During Thursday's fighting, bands of Mubarak supporters moved through side streets around Tahrir, trading volleys of stone-throwing with the protesters and attacking cars to stop supplies from reaching the protest camp. One band stopped a car, ripped open the trunk and found boxes of juice, water and food, which they took before forcing the driver to flee.
Fighting centered on and below a highway overpass 500 yards (meters) north of Tahrir's center that regime supporters had used as high ground to pelt the crowds. Protesters swept over the bridge in stone-throwing battles.
At one point, a police truck barreled wildly through the crowds under the bridge, mowing down several people in its path, according to footage aired on Al-Jazeera. Heavy barrages of gunfire were heard from time to time.
The morning saw a brief attempt by the military to stop the fighting _ its first since the melee started Wednesday. But the troops stood aside when clashes resumed in the afternoon, moving inside their tanks and armored vehicles without intervening.
The Mubarak backers seethed with anger at a protest movement that state TV and media have depicted as causing the chaos and paralyzing businesses and livelihoods.
"You in Tahrir are the reason we can't live a normal life," one screamed as he threw stones in a side street.
The anti-Mubarak youths posted sentries on the roofs and balconies of buildings around the square to raise the alert of any approaching attackers and rain stones on them. Other lookouts in the streets banged metal poles against pedestrian barriers alarm when they sighted incoming Mubarak backers.
One sentry waved his arms in the air like an airport runway traffic controller, directing defenders carrying piles of stones as ammunition to a side street to fend off an assault. But then another sentry waved a hand across his chest horizontally in a new signal. The crowd understood: false alarm, and they melted back into the square.
The exodus of foreigners continued for another day with the U.N. evacuating much of its staff. The vice president said 1 million foreign tourists have fled the country, costing $1 billion in lost revenues from one of Egypt's most important industries.
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AP correspondents Hadeel al-Shalchi, Sarah El Deeb, Hamza Hendawi, Diaa Hadid, Lee Keath and Michael Weissenstein contributed to this report.