As violent confrontations broke out Wednesday in Cairo where supporters of President Hosni Mubarak confronted protesters, Charleston-area residents with friends and family there continued to try to get firsthand information by phone or e-mail.

With Internet service at least partially restored in Egypt, College of Charleston graduate student Aya Khalil was able to call her cousins in Cairo on Wednesday using an online phone service.

"My cousin Yassmin, her brother and father were at Tahrir Square yesterday for the Million Person March and watched Mubarak give his speech (saying) that he would not re-elect himself in September and not step down now," she said in an e-mail to The Post and Courier.

"A couple hundred pro-Mubarak people showed up and clashed with anti-Mubarak protesters," Khalil wrote. "Also this morning Mubarak sent thugs on camels and horses to try to disperse the protesters violently."

Robbin Kattas, owner of the East Bay Meeting House coffee shop in Charleston, hasn't lived in Egypt since 1978, but has a large extended family there.

"I spoke to my brother briefly yesterday, who lives in Alexandria," he said Wednesday. "He told me every police station in Alexandria except one was deserted and burned."

"The army is on the street, but they are really not protecting anybody," he said.

Like Khalil, Kattas said there is no doubt that the pro-Mubarak people who charged protesters are working for the government.

"The people you saw on TV, on the horses, they are paid by the government, and most likely they are from the police force," he said. "There are no horses in Cairo. It's like New York City."

Egyptologist Peter Piccione, a College of Charleston associate professor of ancient Near Eastern history, said he spent most of Tuesday showing his classes live news feeds from Egypt on the Al-Jazeera network and discussing events there. Piccione said he spoke with associates in Egypt Tuesday night.

"From what I understand, all of my friends feel pretty secure, but their bags are packed and they have contingency plans in case they have to leave," he said.