Egypt simmers as Baradei rallies opposition

Anti government demonstrators defied a curfew to protest today morning in Egypt's capital, demanding President Hosni Mubarak step down from office after three decades of misrule.
HT Image
HT Image
Updated on Jan 31, 2011 10:36 AM IST
Copy Link
DPA | By, Cairo

Anti government demonstrators defied a curfew to protest on Monday morning in Egypt's capital, demanding President Hosni Mubarak step down from office after three decades of misrule.

Leading opposition activist, Mohammed El Baradei had earlier on Sunday promised tens of thousands of protesters that change would come to their country, as they staged a sixth day of demonstrations in Cairo and other cities.

"What we have begun today cannot be turned back," the Nobel Peace Prize winner told the crowd in Cairo's central Tahrir Square, through a megaphone, on what he termed an "historic day".

"We are beginning a new era in Egypt," said ElBaradei. He is trying to organise the opposition, but faces some scepticism, largely owing to his many years outside the country, including at the helm of the UN's nuclear watchdog.

A few hundred protesters remained in Tahrir Square well into Monday morning despite a curfew and severe government ordered disruptions to phone and internet services. But their numbers had dwindled and the protests remained peaceful, according to satellite television broadcaster Al Jazeera.

The US, Egypt's key ally, said it expected events in Egypt to lead to a "transition", ending with democratic elections, as President Barack Obama consulted with key leaders in the region. But El Baradei said Washington was losing credibility, by not supporting change in Cairo more strongly.

Gamal Nasser, a spokesman for the largest opposition grouping, the Muslim Brotherhood, said his group was in talks with El Baradei and other movements to form a national unity government without President Hosni Mubarak or his ruling National Democratic Party.

The Brotherhood, banned but tolerated under Mubarak, also demanded an end to the country's draconian emergency laws, which grant police wide ranging powers.

Protesters, most not affiliated to any party or movement, poured into city centres all over Egypt, from remote areas such as Mansoura in the north to Alexandria, the second largest city, in the west.

"We will not go until Mubarak goes," was one of many anti government chants heard in Cairo and other scenes of protests in the vast and largely poor country of 80 million people.

A simpler form of the slogan simply said "Leave" and was handwritten on placards and pieces of paper held up by demonstrators.

The city was relatively quiet overnight. Shots could be heard in some of Egypt's residential neighbourhoods on Monday morning, though there was also a greater military presence keeping security in many quarters.

Residents in big cities formed neighbourhood watch groups in an effort to protect their families and property from looters. Some of these groups even arrested vandals. More groups were formed for Sunday night, but looting and violence was down.

In the chaos, thousands of prisoners were said to have escaped detention facilities in different areas of the country and had become one of the greatest security concerns for many residents. At least four prisons in Cairo had break outs.

They included political prisoners - the Muslim Brotherhood said 38 members of its group were released on Sunday - but witnesses also said they feared violent offenders were out on the streets.

One witness described two men with blood on their shirts roaming Cairo's wealthy Damalek neighbourhood. They were handed over by a local watch group to the military.

At least 150 people have died so far in violence linked to the unrest.

In the early evening on Sunday, military fighter jets and army helicopters buzzed low overhead in a show of force as the protesters chanted. Tanks were also surrounding demonstration areas, though the soldiers did not interfere with the protests.

Police, pushed from the streets on Friday night after clashes with protesters, were back in parts of Cairo after dark on Sunday, with the interior ministry pledging they would be fully re deployed by morning.

Obama telephoned the leaders of Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Britain, telling his counterparts that the US backed "an orderly transition to a government that is responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people", White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on morning talk shows, for the first time called for "free and fair elections" and an "orderly transition" in Egypt, ruled for the last three decades by Mubarak, though she stopped short of calling for Mubarak to step down.

Mubarak - who spent the morning visiting troops, according to state television - has so far reshuffled some top positions and vaguely pledged better economic prospects and freedoms. He later met with military and other officials over new the cabinet appointments.

Importantly, he appointed his former intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, as vice president - a post that has been vacant for nearly three decades - but many who headed to the streets said it was not enough.

The unrest has caused foreigners to flee in droves, with Western and Arab states saying they will arrange special flights to evacuate their citizens. A great crush was being reported at Cairo airport.

The looting has caused divisions within Egypt, as concern for safety has roused some citizens to confront protesters, demanding an end to the chaos.

There was damage to artefacts at the Egyptian Museum, including to items from the King Tutankhamun exhibit, but it remained limited to one section of the building, officials said. Officers from the much despised police force were blamed for this and other attacks.

Internet connections across most of the country remained shut off and al-Jazeera said its Arabic service was forced by the government to close its Cairo bureau.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close Story
QUICKREADS

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • Children play with bubbles at a park during Dragon Boat festival holiday in Beijing, China on June 4, 2022. (REUTERS)

    China’s life expectancy now stands at 77.93 years, health indicators doing well

    The life expectancy of Chinese citizens now stands at 77.93 years and is within the category of upper-middle-income countries, the national health commission, said on Tuesday. The life expectancy of Chinese citizens had risen to 77.3 years in 2019, compared with 35 years in 1949, the beginning of the Communist Party of China's rule, according to a white paper released last year. According to World Bank data, India's life expectancy stood at 70 in 2020.

  • Leena Manimekalai, maker of the short film, Kaali. (Leena Manimekalai/Twitter)

    Kaali poster row: India urges Canada to withdraw provocative material

    Hindu groups in Canada have complained to the country's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and are also exploring legal options over the poster of a film screened in Toronto on Sunday that they deem offensive. The film, Kaali, made by Leena Manimekalai, was shown at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto as part of a multimedia storytelling project, Under the Tent. The community was upset over the poster depicting Goddess Kali smoking a cigarette.

  • People paddle through a flooded street at Windsor on the outskirts of Sydney, Australia.

    Sydney floods: 50K residents told to evacuate, power cuts at 19K homes| Top 10

    Heavy rains have battered the eastern coast of Australia, resulting in floods across Sydney and other parts of New South Wales province. Nearly 50,000 residents across the state have been told to either evacuate or warned about evacuation order from the authorities, Reuters reported. Due to floods, more than 19,000 homes are facing power cuts, AFP reported. Hundreds of homes have been inundated in and around Sydney in the flood emergency, Reuters reported.

  • Law enforcement escorts a family away from the scene of a shooting at a Fourth of July parade on July 4, 2022 in Highland Park, Illinois, Chicago, in the United States. Mark Borenstein/Getty Images/AFP

    Chicago shooting victims: Mexican grandfather, teacher among those killed

    A teacher and a man in his 70s who had travelled from Mexico to visit his family were among the six people shot dead in Chicago's wealthy Highland Park suburb late Monday night after yet another horrific mass shooting incident in the United States. A 'person of interest' - Robert E Crimo III - was taken into custody shortly after the shooting and a high-powered rifle was recovered.

  • China also slammed the Artemis Accord, calling it US effort to create a NATO in outer space.

    China accuses NASA chief of 'lying through his teeth' as race to Moon get heated

    The competition between the US and China to explore outer space turned prickly after Chinese diplomats blasted the head of NASA and encouraged neighboring countries to support Beijing's plan for exploring the moon. China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian on Monday accused NASA Administrator Bill Nelson of lying “through his teeth” in response to reported comments in a German tabloid about the space competition between the two countries.

SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Tuesday, July 05, 2022