Human rights analyst: Egyptian government sent thugs to attack the demonstrators

Speaking by phone from Cairo, Human Rights Watch's Joe Stork told me that he is alarmed by the U.S. media coverage portraying the clashes on the streets as spats between "rival protesters" -- citizens who have two different visions of the future of Egypt: 

"These are not rival factions. This is brown-shirt tactics. This is the government sending in people -- whether they are paid or not is a very subsidiary question -- sending in thugs armed with knives, stones, sticks, to attack the pro-democracy protesters, who were there in an entirely peaceful manner."

Asked how we can be sure that the pro-government crowds had been sent by the government, Stork cited several bits of evidence, having been in Tahrir Square when the fighting erupted this morning: People he spoke to there mentioned young men being paid as much as $500 to fight for the regime; others who were caught looting were later found to have IDs indicating that they were members of the Ministry of the Interior-controlled security service. 

Were this a rival protest, they could easily have gone to one of the many other public squares in Egypt. Instead, the Army began "letting people in [to the square] today who had mayhem on their minds." "Any one of these things is circumstantial," he explained, "but altogether" the conclusion is clear.


Egypt returns to the Internet

The above video illustration by the Internet monitoring service Renesys shows the moment Egypt's Internet returned to life -- one ISP at a time -- starting at around 9:30 UTC (11:30 Cairo time) this morning. Interestingly, the Noor Group's ISP, which was kept on several days after the others had been shut down, was also the last to come back up. When the dust settles, there's going to be an interesting ticktock of how the Internet shutdown was accomplished and why Noor stayed up longer than any of the other services. 

For now at least, Twitter and Facebook also seem to be fully accessible at their main URLs.