CAIRO: Supporters of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak clashed violently with opposition protesters on Wednesday after storming their rally in central Cairo, with at least 26 people hurt, witnesses said.
Partisans from both sides threw stones and set on each other with sticks and fists in Tahrir Square, the epicentre of anti-regime demonstrations, a day after the embattled president rejected demands to step down and vowed to stay on to the end of his term.
Fighting took place around army tanks deployed in the square, with stones bouncing off the armour, resultantly, at least 10 people were injured in the first fighting.
Soldiers took cover from the projectiles, and the windows of at least one army truck were broken. Some troops stood on tanks and appealed for calm but did not otherwise intervene.
The clashes occurred just hours after the army urged people to go home and allow a return to normality.
Amid the chaos, Mubarak partisans charged in on camel and horseback.
At least six riders were dragged from their beasts, beaten with sticks and taken away with blood streaming down their faces.
One of them was dragged away unconscious, with large blood stains on the ground at the site of the clash.
Elsewhere, an angry crowd of anti-Mubarak protesters beat at least 10 pro-regime demonstrators with sticks, a second correspondent added.
The worst of the fighting was just outside the world famous Egyptian Museum, which was targeted by vandals last week.
Three opposition groups said in a statement that "members of security forces dressed in plain clothes and a number of thugs have stormed Tahrir Square."
The renewed violence comes despite calls by close ally the United States and other nations for Egyptian authorities to allow anti-government protests to proceed peacefully, with both sides exercising restraint.