Friday, January 25, 2013

Egyptian Protests, Clashes All Over the Country on Revolution's Anniversary

Protests, clashes all over the country on revolution's anniversary

Bel Trew, Salma Shukrallah, Randa Ali, Friday 25 Jan 2013
Ahram Online

Scorers of protesters chant against the regime during January 25 rallies; clashes between demonstrators and security continue in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez as violence erupt in Ismailia and Mahalla

17:50 A little earlier in Tahrir Square, Ahram Online’s Zeinab El Gundy spoke to well-known Egyptian sociologist Saad El-Din Ibrahim.

“I came here to join the young protesters for freedom, bread and social justice. I think the message must be sent to the regime, otherwise it will be too late,” he commented.

Ahram Online's Osman El-Sharnoubi reported at five o’clock that police forces continue to fire tear gas in Qasr El-Aini street off Tahrir Square.

"There is very potent tear gas on Sheikh Rihan Street. Some protesters are distributing vinegar to counter the effects of the tear gas," he said.

17:45 Al-Ahram's Arabic website reports that protesters stoned the premises of the city council in the city of Mahalla, located in Delta's Gharbiya governorate, while calling for the "fall of the regime."

Earlier, a march consisting of members of several revolutionary groups as well as hardcore football fan ‘Ultras’ groups had headed to the council and chanted anti-Brotherhood slogans, according to the same report.

17:40 Five revolutionary groups issued a statement to mourn the "passing away of two martyrs" on the second anniversary of Egypt's revolution. No deaths have been officially confirmed thus far.

According to the statement, both persons were killed in the coastal city of Alexandria where clashes between demonstrators and police forces have been ongoing. It was signed by the Popular Current, the Social Popular Alliance, the Free Egyptian Movement, the April 6 Democratic Front (a breakaway group from the original April 6 Youth Movement), and the Revolutionary Socialists.

The health ministry's Egyptian Ambulance Organisation, however, issued a statement saying no deaths had been reported at 4pm Egypt time, while 61 had been injured across Egypt during the ongoing clashes and protests.

The statement issued by the five revolutionary groups was released at approximately 5pm.

17:35 The Freedom and Justice Party's foreign affairs analyst Islam Abdel-Rahman criticised the media's coverage of the the controversial new Black Bloc group, who have blocked the tramway tracks in Alexandria on Friday.

"I wonder, if they [Black Bloc] had some Islamic flags or signs, what would be the media’s reaction?" said Abdel-Rahman on his Twitter account.

17:30 New head of the Salafist Nour Party Yousef Makhioun urged demonstrators to avoid violence or assaulting public property, in a Friday press statement as street battles escalate across the country.

He stressed that police members are also Egyptian and should not be attacked as “we are all one nation”.

The ultraconservative leader called on all Egyptians to “stand in the way of those who are trying to use the current events to create chaos and destroy state institutions because the poor will be the hardest hit.”

17:25 Take a look at our latest op-ed: Why Egypt's 'Twitter revolution' was a western myth.

17:20 In the first official statement issued amid Friday's protests, Prime Minister Hisham Qandil calls on party leaders to be stricter in their rejection of violence.

"I demand party heads and political forces to assume their national responsibility by declaring their outright rejection of all acts of rioting and torching buildings instead they should commit to the peacefulness of protests," Qandil said on his official Facebook page Friday afternoon.

"I have reviewed with the minister of interior Maj. Gen. Mohamed Ibrahim the current security situation as well as the status of those arrested upon yesterday's events" he continued.

Several protesters were arrested Thursday evening when clashes intensified between riot police and protesters who broke down parts of the concrete block wall at Cairo's downtown street Qasr El-Aini.

17:15 Moving to the coastal city of Port Said, thousands are protesting alongside hardcore fans of Al-Masry football club, Ultras Masrawy and Green Eagles, reported Aswat Masryia news website.

Protesters are chanting against president Mohamed Morsi and his policies. Among the crowds are families of the defendants facing trial for last year’s February 1 Port said massacre.

Egypt's criminal court is expected to announce its verdict on the contentious case, Saturday.

17:10 Marches leaving from Shubra and Mostafa Mahmoud have reached a packed Tahrir as the masses chant "the people demand the overthrow of the regime."

17:05 The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party headquarters in Ismailia have been torched, Reuters reports.

Witnesses told the British news agency that a group of youths had first broken into and then ransacked the office of the FJP.

17:00 Protesters in Suez have entered the governorate’s headquarters amid escalating clashes with the security forces, Ahmed Khafagi a member of the Suez Youth bloc told Ahram Online.

Khafagi added that they hung up a poster of a slain protester as soon as they entered the government building.

16:55 Back on Tahrir Ahram Online's Sarah El-Rashidi talks to journalist Sherin Ali about her take on Egypt, two years on from the revolution:

“I'm here today because I believe oppression, poverty and injustice is not the written fate of the Egyptian people. Millions have been struggling for freedom and dignity. However, unfortunately, we are cursed with one leader after another who believe that coming to power simply means enjoying the privileges of the position without its full responsibility and duty."

“I'm here today not to remove Morsi, because he assumed power through the ballot box, but to remind him that he has a duty to the Egyptian people and that he can't oppress and exclude the opposition”, she added.

16:50 Moving north to the Cairo suburb of Nasr City, the march which kicked off from Rabaa Al-Adawyia mosque has arrived at the presidential palace, reports Al-Ahram Arabic news website.

Security presence was bolstered earlier this morning around the main gate to the palace.

16:45 In central Cairo, 100s block the Maspero Corniche, where the state radio and television headquarters are located, calling for the end of the regime, reports Ahram Arabic website.

“Down with the rule of the [Muslim Brotherhood] Supreme Guide," the demonstrators also chant.

Negotiations between protesters and traffic police continue, as the security forces push to open the road to traffic.

16:40 Prominent Egyptian author Ahdaf Soueif chats to Ahram Online's Sarah El-Rashidi on Tahrir Square.

“I am here to keep the pressure on and for social justice for the Egyptian people,” she says.

16:35 Meanwhile moving north to Alexandria, Ahram Online’s Yasmine Fathi says hundreds of protesters are marching towards Sidi Gaber district, another popular place in the coastal city for protests.

16:30 In response to news the Shubra march was attacked under the building of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Ikhwan Online, the Islamist group say it was in fact a “third attempt to raid their offices”.

Rather than the Brotherhood being responsible for throwing rocks and glass at the protesters heading for Tahrir, they say a battle is currently ensuing between residents of Tawfiqya and a masked group. Both groups, the Islamist group added, are firing birdshot and molotov cocktails at each other.

Ahram Online journalist Mostafa Ali at the scene says he can hear heavy gunfire and can see 100s of protesters from the Shubra march surrounding the Brotherhood building, they appear to be under fire from unknown assailants.

The rest of the Shubra march continued on to Tahrir Square.

16:15 The police have been ordered to deal with protesters "firmly" as they have recieved reports that groups will try to storm the court building, Head of Alexandria's Investigative Police Nasser El-Abd told Ahram Online’s Ahmed Eleiba. He added that the police have orders to stand their ground against any attempts to enter or damage state buildings.

Clashes continue in Egypt's coastal city between the security forces and protesters outside of the Alexandrian governorate building.

16:10 Assailants armed with stones and glass attacked the Shubra march from the roof of Each Way hotel at Al-Tawfikya market near the High court, says Ahram Online reporter Hossam El-Hamalawy from the rally.

“We can hear shots, we don’t know if its bird shot or live ammunition,” El-Hamalawy confirmed.

Eyewitnesses accuse the Muslim Brotherhood of initiating the violence, however others suggest it is part of a vendors fight.

Ahram Online’s El-Hamalawy says the attack originated from the bureau of the Muslim Brotherhood’s official website Ikhwan Online, right next to the Tawfikya market, when they started throwing stones at protesters. Ikhwan Online’s office was allegedly attacked last night.

16:00 The Ministry of Interior has issued a warning to protesters engaging the police, on its official Facebook page:

“Dear revolutionaries, you have the right to protest, express your opinion as much as you want. There will be no hostility between you and us as long as you refrain from any sabotage or attacks on police establishments."

15:55 Passing by state-owned Al-Gomhorya newspaper, protesters in the Shubra march chant against "the misleading media" as they reach Ramsis Street on their journey to Cairo's Tahrir.

15:50 Meanwhile back in Tahrir, Ahram Online’s Ekram Ibrahim catchs up with activist and co-founder of the No To Military Trials For Civilians campaign Mona Seif.

"I think the turnout of protesters is good. I am here mainly because our social justice demands have yet to be fulfilled - the government is instead adopting the line of not caring."

15:45 Violence spreads across the country as clashes erupt in Suez between hundreds of protesters and security forces at the governorate headquarters.

Medhat Eissa of the Suez Revolutionary Bloc told Ahram Online security forces started firing tear gas as the march approached the government building. Several injuries have been reported, he confirmed.

15:35 Rebab El-Mahdi, a political science professor at the American University in Cairo and well-known political activist, tells Ahram Online that the only way to get rid of the current regime with all its policies is to build a new political alternative, working on the ground and dealing with the real demands of the people.

“The circumstances now are different than they were in January 2011,” she told Ahram Online. “Protests and sit-ins in different squares around Egypt will not topple the regime or convince people to join. The revolutionary forces need to build real alternatives that engage people and their everyday struggles with the political demands of the revolution, and this is not an easy task.”

15:30 Ahram Online's Simon Hanna has been filming from the frontlines of the clashes in Cairo.

15:25 Al-Ahram Arabic reports that protesters at in front of Al-Manshia police station have been attacked by a number of people armed with bladed weapons.

According to Alexandrian authorities at least thirty have been injured in the clashes taking place in the coastal city.

Meanwhile, Ahram Online’s Yasmine Fathi is at the governorate’s headquarters, where tear gas is being fired at protesters. She reports that the canisters being used bear no labels or details about where they were manufactured, and describes the effect of the gas as “much worse” than gas used in previous clashes.

15:20 Moving to the seaport city of Suez, three marches have started marching to the iconic Al-Arabeen square. Protesters are chanting: "Our demands is still the same - bread, dignity and social justice" and "Down with the [Muslim Brotherhood's] Supreme Guide."

15:15 Several small demonstrations are take place in governorates around Egypt, including Damanhour, Sharqiya, Minya, Menoufiya, Luxor and Dakhiliyah.

The chants are mostly protesting deteriorating living conditions, demanding justice for slain protesters, and pressing for the revolution’s unmet goals. Many chants are against the Muslim Brotherhood using the slogan: “Down with the rule of the Supreme Guide.”

15:10 On its official Facebook page, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party has posted pictures of its members painting the walls of Al-Azhar University. The Brotherhood had said that they would not be participating in the planned demonstrations but would be launching a campaign dubbed “Together we build Egypt” providing community services.

15:05 In Alexandria, the situation remains tense. Hundreds of protesters are now gathering at Al-Manshia police station in the coastal city, chanting ”the ministry of interior are thugs,” reported Al-Ahram Arabic news website.

The police have chained the station’s gates shut and fired shots in the air to disperse protesters; both security forces and protesters are throwing stones at each other.

Meanwhile, around 4,000 have left Saad Zaghloul Square marching to Alexandria’s court complex.

In Cairo, the small-scale clashes close to Tahrir Square continue; Ahram Online's Zeinab El-Gundy reports that protesters are throwing flaming balls of cloth at police, while both sides are hurling stones at each other.

15:00 Thousands are marching from Al-Istiqama mosque in Giza, led by founder of the Strong Egypt Party Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh.

Also taking part in the march are the president’s former advisor Seif Abdel Fatah, and several members of the Strong Egypt Party including political analyst Rebab El-Mahdi and TV anchor and poet Abdel-Rahman Youssef.

The 6 April Democratic Front and the Socialist Youth Movement are also participating in the march.

Al-Ahram Arabic website quoted Abul-Fotouh as saying that he rejected the slogan “the people want the fall of the regime” and “down with the rule of the [Muslim Brotherhood’s] Supreme Guide”, saying that it was not 25 January 2011 and that he and his party want to reform the regime and not topple it.

14:55 According to Mohamed Sultan, the head of the health ministry's ambulance service, four people have been injured so far today in the clashes in Cairo, with a total of 29 injured since the violence began yesterday.

14:50 Numbers at the Mostafa Mahmoud mosque in the middle-class Cairo district of Mohandeseen are steadily increasing, reports Ahram Online’s Ekram Ibrahim.

Ibrahim spoke to Mohamed Sherif, a 28-year-old demonstrator who has been protesting since January 28, 2011.

"My demands are that Morsi changes the government and that the constitution is cancelled. If these top demands are not met I will not leave Tahrir Square," said Sherif.

The Shubra march, led by labour activist Kamal Abou Eita, has reached almost 20,000 people, reports Ahram Online’s Hossam El-Hamalawy. Protesters are chanting: “Students with workers against the president’s exploitation.”

14:45 Al-Ahram Arabic is reporting a number of anti-government demonstrations around Egypt. Protesters in Qena, Upper Egypt, have staged a demonstration in Al-Mahatta Square chanting "Down with the rule of the Morshid [Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood]" and "They said justice and stability and the people are left hungry."

Members of the Egyptian Democratic Party, the Nasserist Party, the National Salvation Front, and the Constitution Party all took part in the protest, Al-Ahram Arabic news website reported.

In Mahalla city in the Nile Delta, protesters reportedly tore down images of President Morsi that had been put up by his supporters, reported Al-Ahram Arabic. Hundreds of protesters marched through the centre of Mahalla chanting "Leave, leave, Morsi" and "Mahallah is with Tahrir." Their chants also described the current situation as the "era of train martyrs and house collapses.”

14:40 Clashes have erupted in Egypt's second city of Alexandria, reports Ahram Online’s Ahmed Eleiba. The march coming from Qaed Ibrahim reached the Governorate headquarters, where the street battles began.

Hundreds of demonstrators, including several who identified themselves as members of the Black Bloc, formed lines as they approached the government building and were met with tear gas from the security forces.

Several people have fainted and ambulances are rushing to the scene, said Eleiba.

Ahram Online’s Yasmine Fathi says what seems like bullet shots can be heard and reports snipers can be seen on top of a fire fighting brigade station. Protesters are breaking up the pavement to make rocks.

Meanwhile, Al-Ahram Arabic website reporter Ahmed Sabri says several individuals dressed in black and identifying themselves as members of the Black Bloc have stormed the Alexandria Court.

In Northern Sinai, police forces have arrived near El-Horreya Square, formerly called El-Refaei Square, in Al-Arish city in anticipation of any violence that may erupt in Friday’s demonstrations, Al-Ahram Arabic news website reported.

14:30 Moving back to Tahrir, Sarah El-Rashidi says political figure and founding member of Kifaya movement George Isaac has just entered the square surrounded by a huge a crowd.

Atif Aziz, a demonstrator in his forties, tells Ahram Online why people are so reluctant to talk to the media:

“We are in a huge is not about getting rid of Morsi it is much more complicated than that.”

Aziz blames the current status on the lack of a plan from the side of the revolutionaries.

14:20 The march leaving from Shubra is growing, says Ahram Online reporter Hossam El-Hamalawy.

As the march kicked off, the protesters were greeted by a family of a slain protester from their balcony as those marhcing chanted for vengeance for those killed during the January 25 Revolution.

The rally which was dubbed “the march for social justice” focused on calling for labour rights, present was prominent labour activist and head of the independent union of Real Estate Tax Agency Employees Kamal Abou-Eita.

14:15 Six people have been injured, including a Spanish journalist in the Qasr El-Aini clashes, reports Ahram Online journalist Zeinab El-Gundy.

14:10 A boisterous Alexandrian march leaving Qaed Ibrahim rally point is chanting against the Muslim Brotherhood and calling for the end of Morsi’s rule, reports Ahram Online’s Yasmine Fathi from the coastal city.

Demonstrators are chanting for the right of the martyrs and focusing mostly on Gaber Salah or ‘Jika’, a 16-year-old protester who was shot by police last November during clashes around the Ministry of Interior.

14:00 US embassy warned their citizens in Egypt to avoid downtown areas of Cairo and Heliopolis as well as Alexandria on the January 25 Revolution's anniversary.

"As a matter of general practice, US citizens should avoid areas where large gatherings may occur. Even demonstrations or events intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. US citizens in Egypt are urged to monitor local news reports and to plan their activities accordingly," read the security statement on their official website.

13:45 Protesters are demanding the application of minimum and maximum wage as well as protesting the increase in prices at a gathering in working-class district of Imbaba, says Ahram Arabic website.

The hundreds-strong rally is preparing to march on Tahrir.

“Shout out loud residents of Imbaba the Brotherhood do not represent us,” the angry demonstrators chant.

13:40 Moving back to Alexandria, several thousand protesters have started marching from Qaed Ibrahim rallying point toward Muharam Bek, reports Ahram Online’s Yasmine Fathi.

13:35 Hamdeen Sabbahi and Mohamed ElBaradei, National Salvation Front leaders and former presidential candidates, are leading the Mostafa Mahmoud march.

Thousands are moving from Mohandiseen to Tahrir. Meanwhile back in downtown Cairo a smaller march form Al-Fath Mosque in Ramsis Street has kicked off as well.

13:30 Employees from Egypt’s Stock Exchange in downtown Cairo report an increased security presence outside of the building, ahead of potential riots, says Ahram Arabic news websit.

13:25 Moving to the working-class district of Shubra, thousands have already started marching to Tahrir square carrying Egyptians flags, reports Ahram Online journalist Hossam El-Hamalawy.

Protesters are chanting against Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed El-Badie and deputy-head of Freedom and Justice Party Essam El-Erian, accusing the latter of being a Zionist.

Among those demonstrating are youth of the opposition coalition National Salvation Front, April 6 Youth movement and the Revolutionary Socialists.

“The people demand the overthrowing of the regime,” chant the protesters.

13:15 In Alexandria’s Qaed Ibrahim, prayers finished and demonstrators have increased now to thousands.

13:10 Prime Minister Hisham Qandil has reportedly asked the Ministry of Communications to boost network coverage in places where huge rallies are expected for the anniversary rallies, says Minister of Communication Atef Helmi.

Speaking to Turkish press agency Anatoli, Helmi said the capacity of the three working networks Mobinil, Etisalat and Vodafone will be increased by 15 -20 per cent. These wavelengths will be taken from the army.

13:05 Tens of protesters at Heliopolis’s presidential palace, the site of mass rallies in December against President Mohamed Morsi, blocked El-Merghany street using burning tyres for 30 minutes until security forces convinced them to retreat, reports Al-Ahram Arabic news website.

13:00 According to Mohamed Sultan head of Egypt's ambulance, at least 35 ambulances will be present on the square.

"We will also be coordinating with the field hospitals which will start working following Friday's prayers," Sultan told Al-Ahram Arabic news website.

12:55 Meanwhile, in Mohamed Mahmoud street near Tahrir Square tens of protesters are chanting “They have killed our brothers on the square, they too must die”, reports Al-Ahram Arabic news website.

12:50 From Alexandria’s Qaed Ibrahim Square, Ahram Online’s Yasmine Fathi talks to a passerby, Mohamed Hisham:

“What is happening to the Brotherhood today is exactly what happened to prophet Mohamed during the early days of his message when the Kuffar (infidels) were fighting him."

12:47 Back on Tahrir, Ahram Online’s Zeinab El-Guindy reports that the clashes are intensifying on the corner of the flashpoint square. A tear gas bomb thrown from the police’s side was picked up by a young boy who threw it back at the security forces.

Moving to the center of Tahrir Square, El-Guindy says the preacher Mohamed Abdallah Nasr leading the Friday prayers is attacking the Muslim Brotherhood saying, they are “using double standards.”

12:45 Back to Cairo, leading figure of the National Salvation Front Mohamed ElBaradei has just arrived at Mostafa Mahmoud mosque, in the middle-class district of Mohandissen to join in the prayers before the marches start, reports Ahram Online’s Ekram Ibrahim.

12:35 Meanwhile inAlexandria at the main rallying point Qaed Ibrahim Square, hundreds have already gathered. However, Sheikh Ahmed Mahalawy, known for his pro-revolution speeches during the 18-day uprising in 2011 and controversial pro-Islamist sermons which have sparked recent clashes in the coastal city, chose not to give the Friday sermon.

Banners demanding that President Mohamed Morsi steps down surround a mixed crowd, which includes both young and old as well as many women. Chants condemn the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party as “liars”.

Two marches are planned in the coastal city, one from Qaed Ibrahim another from the Two Saints Church and possibly a third rally from the middle-class area of Victoria Square.

Ezz El-Din El-Azzazy, 29, talking to Ahram Online's Yasmine Fathi at Qaed Ibrahim says:

“I am here because of the increasing prices. I come from the slums and I feel that the Brotherhood only care about the poor when they need votes."

12:25 There has been a low turnout at the Mostafa Mahmoud Mosque rallying point even after Friday prayers, says Ahram Online's Ekram Ibrahim.

Tens are holding Egyptian flags in an absence of political groups.

12:15 Scuffles between protesters and security forces erupt on Qasr El-Aini Street near Tahrir Square a few hours before thousands are scheduled to gather on the square to mark the revolution’s 2nd anniversary.

Ahram Online reporter Zeinab El-Gundy on the scene says police forces are firing tear gas.

The clashes reportedly took place after a number of protesters attempted to bring down the wall built by security forces on the street adjacent to key government buildings.

Earlier on Thursday, two protesters were arrested by the police for trying to remove the wall which was built in November 2012 during Cairo’s downtown street Mohamed Mahmoud's commemoration where clashes took place between Egypt's Central Security Forces (CSF) and protesters.

12:00 As the Friday prayers begin, protesters have already begun rallying in Cairo’s Shubra district, ahead of the expected march to Tahrir, reports Ahram Online’s Adam Makary.

Members of the Black Bloc, a new vigilante group all dressed in black, who made their first statement on the eve of the second anniversary vowing to fight the Muslim Brotherhood, are planning to march on the presidential palace instead of Tahrir.

11.45 Hundreds are already gathered in the iconic square reports Ahram Online’s Zeinab El-Guindy. Street vendors are lining up around the square selling flags, t-shirts, food and drinks catering to the masses expected to appear marking the revolution anniversary.

11.30 Good morning, we open our live coverage of today’s mass rallies for the 2nd anniversary of Egypt’s 2011 uprising.

The sun shines over Tahrir squares as it welcomes the third round of the January 25 Revolution with banners hung saying “No to the Prosecutor General, No the Muslim Brotherhood’s supreme guide, No to Military trials”.

Tahrir is filled with tens of tents and a small mural of the January 25 Revolution’s martyrs has been erected in the middle of the square’s garden.

Small demos are marching around the square chanting “Leave” awaiting the masses who plan to march to the square following Friday's prayers.

Here is a guide to the marches taking place today.

Thousands are expected to gather in Tahrir Square to mark the 2nd anniversary of Egypt’s January 25 Revolution amid deepening political turmoil across the country.

Thursday night saw clashes between security forces and protesters on Qasr Al-Aini Street by key government buildings such as the upper house of parliament and the Cabinet headquarters, after groups attempted to remove a 12ft concrete security barricade erected by the military during previous street battles.

Political parties and movements from across the spectrum – both Islamist and non-Islamist – have made plans for the day ranging from protest rallies and marches to public street-cleaning campaigns.

On Sunday, 16 revolutionary parties and groups announced plans to mark the occasion with countrywide demonstrations. These groups say they will continue to push for longstanding revolutionary goals – namely 'freedom, bread and social justice' – and combat perceived political monopolisation by Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.

Friday's rallies are slated to begin immediately following noon prayers. Several marches will set out for Tahrir Square from different areas of Cairo and Giza, including Helwan, Shubra, Al-Zawaya, Imbaba and Mohandeseen's Mostafa Mahmoud Square. Another march has also been planned from points in Cairo to the Presidential Palace.

Additional rallies are also expected in several governorates, including Alexandria, the Red Sea, Kafr Al-Sheikh, Assuit, Port Said, Suez and Sharqiya.

Among the parties and groups participating in Friday's planned protests are the Constitution Party, the Egyptian Popular Current, the Socialist Popular Alliance, the Free Egyptians party, the Revolutionary Socialists and the Maspero Youth Coalition.

The Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), meanwhile, declared that they would – unlike last year – refrain from taking part in either celebrations or protests. Rather, the group plans to launch a campaign from 24 January to 5 February aimed at providing free healthcare and public sanitation services.

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