Friday, January 28, 2011

No End in Sight for Egypt Uprising

No end in sight for Egypt uprising

The angry nationwide demonstrations have swelled into the largest uprising in three decades. (

Activists in Egypt geared up for the biggest protests yet on Friday to end president Hosni Mubarak's three-decade rule, while demonstrators fought security forces into the early-morning hours in the eastern city of Suez.

Emboldened by this month's revolt that toppled the authoritarian leader of Tunisia, Egyptians have staged mass protests since Tuesday in an unprecedented outburst of anger against Mr Mubarak's strong-handed rule.

The angry nationwide demonstrations have swelled into the largest uprising in three decades, in which seven people have been killed and more than 100 injured.

"This is a revolution," one 16-year-old protester said in Suez.

"Every day we're coming back here."

A heavy security clampdown overnight prevented protesters from massing in the centre of Cairo as they did on Tuesday and Wednesday, but clashes erupted in the cities of Suez and Ismailiya and in a Sinai town where police shot dead a protester, witnesses said.

Internet access was shut down across the country - at one point completely. Mobile phone text messaging services also appeared to be partially disabled, working only sporadically. The government has denied disrupting communications networks.

Internet and text messaging services flickered on and off through the night. US-based Internet monitoring firm Renesys said Egypt's web access was totally shut down early on Friday, an event it called "unprecedented in internet history".

"Renesys observed the virtually simultaneous withdrawal of all routes to Egyptian networks in the internet's global routing table," it said. "The Egyptian government's actions tonight have essentially wiped their country from the global map."

A page on Facebook listed more than 30 mosques and churches where protesters were expected to gather.

"Egypt's Muslims and Christians will go out to fight against corruption, unemployment and oppression and absence of freedom," the page said, adding more than 70,000 had signed up online.

Meanwhile, at least eight senior officials of the country's largest opposition movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, were arrested overnight.

A security source said authorities had ordered a crackdown on the group.

The Brotherhood has kept a low profile during the protests, although many of its supporters were expected to join demonstrations on Friday.

The government has accused the group of planning to exploit the youth protests for its "hidden agendas", while the Brotherhood says it is being used as a scapegoat.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei has arrived back in the country to join demonstrators

Mr ElBaradei, a campaigner for reform in Egypt who won the peace prize for his earlier work as head of the UN nuclear agency, says it is time for Mr Mubarak to step aside.

"He has served the country for 30 years and it is about time for him to retire," he said.

Mr ElBaradei and other opposition figures say the government exploits the Islamist opposition to justify authoritarianism.

- AFP/Reuters

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