Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Angry Egyptians Defy Protest Ban

Angry Egyptians defy protest ban

At least two people killed as thousands take to the streets in second day of anti-government demonstrations

Last Modified: 27 Jan 2011 02:26 GMT

A protester and a police officer were killed in central Cairo as anti-government demonstrators pelted security forces with rocks and firebombs for a second day, according to witnesses.

Activists had called on people to rally again on Wednesday after a "Day of Wrath" the previous day had seen thousands of people take to the streets across Egypt to complain of poverty, unemployment, corruption and repression.

A total of six people, four protesters and two policemen, have been killed so far in the largely unprecedented mass anger at the 30-year rule of Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president.

"The people want the regime to fall," protesters chanted.

Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, has said that the protests represent an opportunity for the administration to implement "political, economic and social reforms to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people".

In the unusually blunt remarks regarding the longtime US ally, Clinton also said that the Mubarak government should not prevent peaceful protests or block social networking sites such as Twitter or Facebook, which have helped Egyptians plan and spread news about the unrest.

'Cat-and-mouse game'

However, protesters faced tear gas, water cannon and beatings from the heavy police presence on the streets of Cairo. Witnesses said that live ammunition was also fired into the air.

"Despite the best efforts of the government security forces to crack down on these protests, to ban them and stop them from spreading anywhere around the streets of Cairo, they have really failed," Al Jazeera's Dan Nolan, reporting from the capital, said.

"What we've seen play out over the night is what can be best described as a very dangerous game of cat-and-mouse, where groups of demonstrators would gather somewhere and very quickly a very large security presence would come in an fire a volley of tear gas to disperse them."

A protester in the centre of Cairo told the Reuters news agency: "The main tactic now is we turn up suddenly and quickly without a warning or an announcement. That way we gain ground."

Many gathered on Gelaa Street, near central Tahrir Square - the site of a violent early morning confrontation between security forces and protesters who had been planning to sleep the night in defiance of the government.

Police fired tear gas and broke up concrete to use as rocks to throw at protesters, Al Jazeera's Adam Makary reported.

At least 860 protesters have been arrested since Tuesday's "day of anger", according to the interior ministry.

In Suez, where the other four deaths had taken place the previous day, severe fighting was reported between police and protesters.

A crowd used petrol bombs to set fire to a government building and attempted unsuccessfully to do the same to a local office of the ruling National Democratic Party.

Medical personnel in Suez reported on Wednesday night that 55 protesters and 15 police officers had been injured.

"Protesters throwing burning bottle bomb into one armoured police car, setting it ablaze," read one tweet sent by Gamal Eid, the executive director of the Arab Network for Human Rights, who was in Suez.

"Police descends onto the streets and [are] not remaining impartial. [They have] injured about 30 protesters so far," he wrote in another.

'Very aggressive'

In Mansoura, a working-class town north of Cairo in the Nile Delta, blogger Mohamed Hamama said the police had been "very aggressive" during protests.

"Major arrests have occurred, they are now being interrogated, a lot of people have either been injured, beaten up or exposed to tear gas," he said.

"I think more and more protests will be staged. Many refuse to stop till they receive a good standard of living."

PJ Crowley, the US state department spokesman,
says the US wants to see 'peaceful change' in Egypt

Twitter confirmed that its services had been blocked in Egypt beginning at 6 pm local time (1600 GMT) on Tuesday.

Jillian York, who oversees the Herdict web monitoring service at Harvard University, said that Egyptian Facebook users confirmed to her that the website was blocked.

Facebook, however, said it had not recorded "major changes" in traffic from Egypt.

The White House said it was monitoring the situation in Egypt "quite closely," but unlike Clinton did not call for reform.

Robert Gibbs, a spokesman for President Barack Obama, told reporters on Wednesday that the government should "demonstrate its responsiveness to the people of Egypt" by recognising their "universal rights."

Asked whether the United States still "backed" Mubarak, Gibbs said only that "Egypt is a strong ally."

Amr Moussa, the secretary-general of the Arab League, said that he believes "the Arab citizen is angry, is frustrated."

"That is the point," he said. "The name of the game is reform."

With just eight months to go before a presidential election that could see the ailing Mubarak run for re-election or attempt to hand power to a successor, protesters in Egypt were demanding solutions to the country's grinding poverty and an end to onerous emergency national security laws in place since the 1981 assassination of Mubarak's predecessor, Anwar Sadat.

"Down with Hosni Mubarak, down with the tyrant," chanted the crowds. "We don't want you!"

Mubarak, 82, has not appointed a deputy since he became president and is widely thought to be grooming his son Gamal to succeed him.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Egypt protests widen, toll rises to six

From: AFP January 27, 2011 12:28PM

TWO more people died and hundreds were arrested as the biggest uprising against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule widened, prompting Washington to prod its long-time ally on democratic reforms.

Incensed demonstrators appeared set for further protests despite a crackdown that saw hundreds detained and left six people dead over two days.

A policeman and a protester died in Cairo in a shower of rock-throwing between the two sides on Wednesday.

Police fired tear gas at hundreds of demonstrators and chased them through the streets of a popular commercial district, witnesses said.

Protesters responded by throwing rocks at police, damaging several shop fronts in an area near the information ministry.

There were also clashes as demonstrators pushed their way through a gate into the compound of the foreign ministry before being driven out with tear gas.

Protesters in the northeastern port city of Suez threw Molotov cocktails at a government building, setting parts of it on fire, witnesses said.

Others firebombed and occupied the headquarters there of the ruling National Democratic Party.

In clashes with police, who fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the crowds, 55 protesters and 15 police were injured, medics said on Wednesday.

And dozens were arrested in Egypt's second city of Alexandria as they tried to reach a sea-front square to demonstrate, witnesses said.

The protests in the Arab world's most populous nation, inspired by the groundbreaking "Jasmine Revolution" in Tunisia, sent shockwaves across the region and Egypt's interior ministry banned further demonstrations.

Despite the ban and a threat to arrest those who disobeyed, members of the pro-democracy youth group April 6 Movement, the driving force behind the unrest, said they would take to the streets.

"We've started and we won't stop," one demonstrator told AFP.

"To continue what we started on January 25, we will take to the streets to demand the right to life, liberty, dignity and we call on everyone to take to the streets ... and to keep going until the demands of the Egyptian people have been met," the group said.

The pro-democracy group circulated SMS messages and posted appeals on social networking site Facebook for fresh demonstrations on Friday after the Muslim weekly prayers "to demand the right to live with freedom and dignity".

Facebook said Wednesday that it had not seen any major changes in traffic following reports it had been blocked in Egypt.

The White House meanwhile issued a nuanced written statement in Obama's name on Egypt.

"The Egyptian government has an important opportunity to be responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people, and pursue political, economic and social reforms that can improve their lives and help Egypt prosper," it said.

"The United States is committed to working with Egypt and the Egyptian people to advance these goals," it added.

The statement also underlined US support for basic democratic freedoms "including the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly".

The protests are the largest in Egypt since bread riots in 1977, four years before Mr Mubarak came to power.

Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif said the "government is keen to guarantee freedom of expression through legitimate means", but did not elaborate.

Among protesters' demands are the departure of the interior minister, whose security forces have been accused of heavy-handedness; an end to a decades-old state of emergency, which gives police wide powers of arrest and bans demonstrations; and a rise in minimum wages.

On Wednesday, Bahrain's King Hamad telephoned Mr Mubarak and called for Arab leaders to meet to "adopt a strategy on the future and progress of the Arab nation, in the interests of the Arab people, their security and stability".

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