Last Updated: Tue Jan 25, 2011 23:39 pm (KSA) 20:39 pm (GMT)

Thousands of protesters take to the streets in Egypt

 

Thousands of Egyptians demanded an end to President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule and clashed with police in unprecedented countrywide protests on Tuesday inspired by the revolt that brought down Tunisia's president.

"Down, down, Hosni Mubarak," chanted protesters in Cairo, where despite some 20,000 to 30,000 police being deployed in the centre of the capital, demonstrators broke police barriers to march towards central Tahrir Square, and police fired tear gas in an attempt to disperse them.

In a nearby road that leads to parliament, police sprayed water cannons as protesters threw stones.

A security official said around 15,000 people were demonstrating in the capital.

 Down, down, Hosni Mubarak  
protesters

Some protesters were beaten hard by police with sticks. Others, in a rare show of nerve against a huge national security operation, chased police down side streets. Reuters TV footage showed one policeman joining the demonstrators.

Medical and security sources said said two people were killed in rotests in the city of Suez.

State television also said a security officer died in central Cairo.

A medical source in a Suez hospital said the two bodies had arrived there. Sources blamed rubber bullets.

An Interior Ministry official in Cairo said he had no information about the deaths in Suez but was checking.

The sources said more than 60 people in Suez suffered the effects of inhaling teargas.

In Alexandria protesters tore down a picture of Mubarak, 82, and one of his son, Gamal, who many Egyptians believe is being groomed for office when his father stands down. Both deny this.

Protesters in Cairo who responded to calls by web activists for action cried: "Gamal, tell your father Egyptians hate you."

In the north Sinai town of Al-Mahdia, near the Israeli border, hundreds demanded the release of political prisoners and an end to police heavy-handedness.

Police were restrained for the most part, demonstrators said.

"We will never harm them; these are our people," one senior police official told AFP.

Egyptians have the same complaints that drove Tunisians onto the streets: surging food prices, poverty, unemployment and authoritarian rule that smothers public protests quickly and often brutally. "Tunisia, Tunisia," protesters shouted.

The United States, a close ally of Egypt and major aid donor, called for restraint from all sides to avoid violence.

"Our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters in Washington.

"Day of Wrath"

Egyptian protests usually draw only a few hundred people. The large numbers and the fact that protests across several cities were coordinated in a way not seen before gave Tuesday's events a force unprecedented since Mubarak took office in 1981.

"What is happening today is a major warning to the system. It is both an extension of pent-up frustrations and continued protests. What is also new is that there are new generations who are using new tools," said analyst Nabil Abdel-Fattah.

The protest could gather momentum unless the state swiftly addressed the demand for reform, he said.

With most formal opposition groups fractured and toothless, web activists led the calls for Tuesday's demonstrations, billed as a "Day of Wrath" against poverty and repression.

By drawing demonstrators in such numbers, online activists have shown their calls for political change can reach a broad audience. Until now most of the rage has stayed on the Internet.

Messages on Twitter and Facebook read: "Tahrir protesters are not going home. They need food and blankets. Roads are closed, so if you live nearby, please help."

Others called for more protests in the days ahead.

Demonstrations took place in Ismailia and Suez, both cities east of Cairo, and in other Nile Delta cities like Mansoura and Tanta. Protesters also gathered in north Sinai.
"We are gathered here to demand

our rights. We can't live. Everything is expensive and there is unemployment. We want prices to go down. This government is the reason for our suffering," said Ibrahim, 33, in Mahalla el Kubra, the site of 2008 riots over subsidised bread shortages and price rises.

Arrests

Medical and security sources said 46 people were injured. A security source said 15 people were detained in Cairo. A group of lawyers said some 50 were detained across Egypt. Another source said two police officers were injured in Suez when rocks were hurled. Witnesses saw protesters dragged off by police.

The Interior Ministry said in a statement that despite the provocative approach of some demonstrators "they were allowed to organize peaceful protests". It blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for provoking some rioting.

The Interior Ministry earlier said it would deal firmly with anyone breaking the law and said demonstrators could face arrest. But Interior Minister Habib al-Adli had told a state newspaper he welcomed stationary protests for short periods.

"We have orders not to clash with them (protesters)," one security officer was heard to say, speaking on a mobile phone earlier in the demonstration in Cairo before scuffles began.

Analysts had expected the authorities to show a more tolerant attitude for fear of provoking the kind of anger that drove Tunisians into weeks of unrest before the overthrow of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali after 23 years in office.

Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia, and some of the Cairo protesters chanted: "Oh Mubarak, Saudi Arabia awaits you."

"I will go to the streets on the 25th of January because this country is my country and I vow an oath that I am ready and willing to die for its sake," wrote Mohamed M on a Facebook group that called for protests and has 87,000 supporters.

One Twitter entry urged police to join the "people's side". Some Web users complained of Internet network problems during the protest, with patchy access to some sites like Twitter.

"In my book, if you get a tenth of the 80,000 people or so who support the initiative online, it will be a success," wrote Issandr El Amrani on his blog arabist.net before the protests

"Intellectual immaturity"

In a sign of anxiety over public discontent, authorities have recently tried to reassure the public that subsidies on basic commodities will remain in place.

Around 40 percent of Egypt's 80-million population live on around $2 per day, and a large part of the population relies on subsidized goods.

However, analysts have expressed doubt that Tunisia's uprising will have a short-term impact on Egypt, saying that unlike Tunisia, the Egyptian regime had managed to give the opposition a margin of freedom.

The Egyptian army, from whose ranks all presidents have emerged, is also deemed loyal to the regime, they say.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian security authorities have arrested 19 would-be suicide bombers who were ready to launch suicide attacks on places of worship nationwide.

Comments »

Post Your Comment »

Social Media »