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Anderson Cooper and his CNN crew were set upon by supporters of embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday afternoon as demonstrations in Cairo took a violent turn a week into a nationwide pro-democracy uprising there.
“It was chaotic,” Cooper told The Hollywood Reporter during a brief phone interview from Cairo on Wednesday. “I’ve been in riots and melees before, but this is the first time that I’ve been in a situation that escalated to a level where we really had no control. Many people in the crowd came for a fight and that’s what they have.”
Cooper and his crew were in front of the Egyptian Museum, making their way across Cairo’s Tahrir Square Wednesday afternoon when Mubarak supporters singled them out. They weren’t filming at the time, said Cooper, but one demonstrator tried to grab videographer Neil Hallsworth’s camera.
“And then other individuals in the crowd just started screaming, pushing us around. And then someone punched me in the head, punched my cameraman, my producer [Maryanne Fox],” explained Cooper. “My producer has a large scratch on her neck. They tried to attack her.”
Cooper described the incident on CNN’s American Morning Wednesday. And word of the attack quickly spread on Twitter. At the moment, Cooper and his team are in a location with a view of Tahrir Square. He declined to say exactly where they are citing ongoing security concerns.
“Where we are is rather precarious right now. I’m in an area where I can see what’s happening in the square,” he said. “But I honestly don’t know when I can leave this building. I have no idea what’s going to happen in the next couple of hours.”
CNN has approximately 35 staffers including eight correspondents in Egypt. The company has security teams on the ground in Cairo who can assist with safe passage in and out of dangerous areas.
“He has a security adviser with him,” said Tony Maddox, executive vp, CNN International. “We will make other security advisers available. The last thing Anderson would want is his presence to upset the balance of what he’s seeking to do. He’s a very professional correspondent.”
But as Mubarak supporters, many of whom are reported to be members of the police force, have begun to clash with pro-democracy demonstrators it may become increasingly dangerous for media personnel there. ABC’s Christiane Amanpour and her crew were chased by an angry mob while attempting to film on a bridge into Tahrir Square Wednesday. “And angry mob surrounded us and chased us into the care shouting they hate America,” Amanpour wrote on ABCNews.com. “They kicked in the car doors and broke our windshield as we drove away.”
Several Egyptians helped Cooper and his crew make their way through the square.
“We didn’t want to start to run because we didn’t want to embolden the crowd,” he explained. “So we just walked determinedly. But we had about a five minute walk to get to the location where we thought we would be safe. And we were surrounded the entire time. Occasionally someone would run up and throw a punch. I pushed back every now and then. But we were advised to just keep walking and not engage. Which was wise advice.”
— Additional reporting by Lindsay Powers
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