The simmering bitterness and bloodshed of Egypt’s popular uprising against President Mubarak has continued for a second day throughout the country.
Protesters in Cairo who want the 82-year old out of power dug in their heels in skirmishes against pro-Mubarak forces in the capital’s Tahrir Square.
Doctors at a makeshift hospital in the square say at least ten people have died in the violence. The number of wounded is rising all the time. Some say it has already topped 1,500.
Our correspondent there reports that the tension is mounting still further. He says both sides are well organised and more protesters are arriving by the minute, raising the spectre of yet more conflict tomorrow – the day set by the opposition for Mubarak to leave.
But despite the bloody scenes being played out just a dozen or so kilometres from the Presidential Palace, there was no sign of Egypt’s leader making any move to go.
With the escalation of brutality the Egyptian military has played an increasing, though still relatively subdued, role.
Having effectively sat on the sidelines during the first day of confrontation, units repeatedly had to take up positions to keep the two sides from clashing.
At one point a tank turned its turret on pro-Mubarak supporters, forcing them to retreat.
Troops were called on to protect westerners, who were targeted by pro-Mubarak gangs roaming the city’s hotels in search for journalists.
Sporadic gunfire could be heard throughout the day.
With the debris of discontent scattered all around Tahrir Square, President Mubarak tried another tactic to win over his opponents.
Two men newly appointed to appease his detractors spoke publicly. The prime minister apologised for the violence and promised an inquiry.
The vice-president said those responsible would be punished.
But their words did nothing to dampen the ardour of the combatants in Tahrir Square.
And with grassroots pressure on Mubarak proving stubborn, international leaders turned up the volume on their calls for change.
The UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon added his voice to the message from several European leaders and the United States, saying transition must begin now and must be swift.