CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian soldiers separated supporters and opponents of President Hosni Mubarak in central Cairo on Thursday, deploying infantry to create a buffer zone in an attempt to halt violence between them. It was the first time the army was seen to act decisively to try to halt the violence, in which six people have been killed and 836 wounded, according to the health minister. A Reuters journalist at the scene said the opposing camps were separated by a distance of some 80 metres. A high level army delegation, head by General Hassan al-Rouwainy, inspected the square with a delegation of officers and talked to anti-Mubarak protest organisers. They were immediately surrounded by protesters saying the army must protect them. After about 15 minutes, the delegation returned to an army position near the Egyptian Museum on the edge of the square. At least 60 soldiers were in position in the buffer zone, standing in line facing both sides about five or 10 metres apart, the Reuters witness said. Thousands of anti-government protesters were on one side and hundreds of Mubarak supporters were on the other side, carrying placards. The neutral zone is absolutely covered in fist-size rocks, said the reporter, referring to the projectiles the protesters had been hurling at each other. An Egyptian army tank moved against supporters of President Hosni Mubarak as they hurled rocks at anti-Mubarak protesters in central Cairo, prompting cheers from demonstrators battered by overnight fighting that killed six. Allahu Akbar, the army and the people are hand in hand, chanted protesters barricaded in Tahrir (Liberation) Square, where 10,000 people on Thursday joined the hundreds who had camped overnight. The Mubarak loyalists fled when the tank turned its turret toward them, then regrouped nearby and resumed throwing stones. Gunfire was later heard in the square, the centre of demonstrations seeking to end Mubaraks 30 years of authoritarian rule, Al Arabiya TV reported. The broadcaster said Mubarak supporters stormed hotels, chasing foreign journalists. In Egypts second largest city of Alexandria, thousands protested with anti-Mubarak banners, one reading: In all languages of the world, we tell you: go out, Mubarak. In northeastern Egypt, around 4,000 people marched in Suez calling for Mubarak to step down, while in Ismailia a crowd of 2,000 held a similar demonstration. In Cairo protesters lined up small rocks to fight off attacks by pro-Mubarak groups. We are using these stones as a means of defense. Yesterday they attacked us with Molotov cocktails (petrol bombs) and all we have to protect ourselves with is stones, said Ali Kassem. A Reuters journalist saw protesters overpower someone they said was an undercover member of the security services. Over a loudspeaker a voice urged: Dont beat him. Hand him to us and the organizing committee and we will hand him over to the army. The international media is watching us and saying we are peaceful people. Some protesters say the pro-Mubarak supporters have been paid for by Mubaraks National Democratic Party (NDP). Mobile phone operator Vodafone accused the Egyptian authorities of using its network to send pro-government text messages to subscribers, without clear attribution. One message sent on Feb 2 seen by Reuters announced the location and timing for a pro-Mubarak rally. If they dont want the president to go, okay, but lets see whose voice is louder...what I saw last night made me want to stay longer, it strengthened my resolve, said Ilham Farouk, a 27-year-old pharmacist in a full face veil. Egypts health minister said six people were killed and 836 wounded in the overnight violence. Mubarak loyalists opened fire with guns, and threw stones and petrol bombs. Protesters barricaded themselves in the square and hurled stones back. Through the night we were getting dozens of wounded every 15 minutes. We had casualties all over the place. Thugs surrounding us tried to attack more of us but we managed, thankfully, to block their advance, said Mohamed Abdel Hamid, a doctor. Another Reuters reporter said volunteers were trying to clear rocks and debris from Tahrir Square to clear a pathway for people to walk through. Egypts new Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq apologised for violence in central Cairo that protesters demanding the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak say was instigated by the government. As officials and a state which must protect its sons, I thought it was necessary for me to apologise and to say that this matter will not be repeated, the prime minister told reporters, describing the violence as a disaster. He promised an investigation to find out whether this was planned, was it spontaneous, did someone direct it, (or) did a certain party encourage it? United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for restraint in Egypt Thursday and said the transition of power should start now. There have been calls for transition, very orderly, peaceful transition. If a transition needs to be taken, the sooner the better .. The transition should begin now, Ban told a news conference in London. Im concerned about the growing violence. I have urged all sides to exercise restraint. Violent attacks against peaceful protesters are completely unacceptable, Ban said. Asked about reports of harassment of reporters, Ban said: The freedom of speech, whether (of) peaceful demonstrators or journalists, should be fully guaranteed and protected. The government should listen very attentively to the wishes of the people. Transition should be orderly and peaceful, he said. Egypts Vice President Omar Suleiman said the president will not put himself forward for the presidency again, he said in a pre-recorded interview on state television Thursday. Suleiman said the Muslim Brotherhood had been invited to meet with the new government as part of a national dialogue with all parties. Amnesty International, based in London, said on Thursday that Egyptian authorities had detained three officials from Western human rights groups and taken them to an unknown location Amnesty said two of its staff were held and US-based Human Rights Watch said its researcher Daniel Williams was picked up in a raid on the Hisham Mubarak Law Center in the city. Egypt could see larger protests and real confrontation on Friday, the State Department said as US diplomats pressed Egypts government to help stop a wave of violence against journalists. I dont think that these are random events, State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said, adding that US officials had spoken to their Egyptian counterparts in both Cairo and Washington about the attacks on journalists. Meanwhile in Yemen, tens of thousands squared off in street protests for and against the government on Thursday during an opposition-led Day of Rage, a day after President Ali Abdullah Saleh offered to step down in 2013. The peaceful protests faded out by midday as planned, suggesting Yemenis outside the traditional opposition activist core had not been motivated to transform the rally into a self-sustaining Egypt-style mass upheaval. But the opposition drew more than 20,000 people in Sanaa, the biggest crowd since a wave of demonstrations hit the Arabian Peninsula state two weeks ago, inspired by protests that toppled Tunisias ruler and threaten Egypts president. The people want regime change, anti-government protesters had shouted as they gathered near Sanaa University, a main rallying point. No to corruption, no to dictatorship. Meanwhile, Algeria promised to end a 19-year-old state of emergency and provide more political freedoms on Thursday, concessions designed to keep out a wave of uprisings sweeping the Arab world. The lifting of the state of emergency will happen in the very near future, Algerias official APS news agency quoted President Abdelaziz Bouteflika as telling a meeting of senior ministers. This is clearly a response to the events in Tunisia and Egypt and an attempt by the Algerian authorities to get ahead of the curve and head off popular protests, said Benjamin Stora, a leading French historian on Algeria. They would not have dreamed of lifting the state of emergency otherwise.