The White House’s terse two-line statement condemning attacks on protesters at Tahrir Square in Cairo today expresses “concern” about attacks on media and peaceful demonstrators. It makes no mention of the fact that the Mubarak regime, based on multiple reports, directed these attacks.

Nick Kristof:

In my area of Tahrir, the thugs were armed with machetes, straight razors, clubs and stones. And they all had the same chants, the same slogans and the same hostility to journalists. They clearly had been organized and briefed. So the idea that this is some spontaneous outpouring of pro-Mubarak supporters, both in Cairo and in Alexandria, who happen to end up clashing with other side — that is preposterous. It’s difficult to know what is happening, and I’m only one observer, but to me these seem to be organized thugs sent in to crack heads, chase out journalists, intimidate the pro-democracy forces and perhaps create a pretext for an even harsher crackdown.

The attacks on journalists is the big giveaway. I heard an observer of the scene in Tahrir Square today say that the pro-Mubarak forces yelled two chants, one in support of Mubarak and one in opposition to Al Jazeera. Authoritarian regimes traditionally take out the communications networks first so nobody outside the country can see their repression.

One prominent American television correspondent, Anderson Cooper of CNN, was struck in the head repeatedly.

Reporters Without Borders said it had received dozens of confirmed reports of violence against local and international journalists in Egypt. Tala Dowlatshahi, a spokeswoman for the group, said “to expect more foreign journalists to be targeted” as violence continued.

The attacks against the news media were reported by Al Jazeera, CNN and Twitter users almost as soon as violent clashes began in the square, eliciting a swift reaction from the United States government.

Al Arabiya reporter Ahmad Abdallah was captured by the pro-Mubarak thugs. According to The New York Times, two of their reporters were cornered by the thugs who tried to stop them from reporting. “Protesters are hunting down Al Jazeera journos,” wrote Gulf News’ Abbas Al Lawati. The Guardian bluntly says that the government is involved, and quotes British Prime Minister David Cameron that such a turn of events would be “completely unacceptable.”

This has all the earmarks of a coordinated strategy. Internet access returned to Egypt for the first time in days today. Egyptian state television started broadcasting images from Tahrir Square of clashes between pro-democracy and pro-Mubarak forces.

The pro-democracy forces still have control of Tahrir Square, and have formed a human chain around it. The Egyptian health ministry has said that one is dead and 403 are injured in the clashes. Ambulances cannot get in to reach the wounded.

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that this is a state-sponsored attack against the Egyptian people.

More from Siun.

…Heck, even four Israeli journalists have been arrested for trying to report on events. The government doesn’t want anyone to see what happens next.

David Dayen

David Dayen