Egypt news: protests continue for fifth day
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It's just after midnight in Cairo, marking the end of the fifth day of protests. We're going to wrap up for the day, but here's a quick look back at where Egypt is and how it got there.
January 15: After four weeks of escalating riots in Tunisia, the president Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali fled the country, and activists called for the creation of a democracy, saying the "Jasmine Revolution" had been won. Inspired by the events, activists in Egypt started circulating plans to take to the streets on Tuesday, January 25, to call for the end of the 30-year rule of president Hosni Mubarak, dubbing the day #Jan25 on social media sites.
#Jan25: Aware of the coming protests, riot police filled the streets of Cairo. Protests started in Dar el Salam, south of Cairo, and spread throughout the country. There were violent conflicts between the police and protesters, with hundreds of arrests made. Around 6 p.m., Twitter was blocked in Egypt. The social media site had been heavily used by Egyptian journalists and activists to organize protests, and to get the word out about the protests to the rest of the world.
#Jan26: Hosni Mubarak placed a ban on any rallies, but people still came out to protest. The police heightened their dispersal tactics, using more force than the day before. A mob in Suez attacked a morgue, a police station and the local headquarters of Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party (NDP). The activists put out a call for a large protest on Friday, calling it #Jan28
#Jan27: Thursday again saw sporadic protests throughout the day. The leading opposition figure, 2005 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohammed ElBaradei, returned to Egypt. The stock market index fell 16 percent since Tuesday. Thursday night the Internet and cellphone services were abruptly cut off, reportedly to mar the protesters' ability to organize for the following day's large march.
#Jan28: Despite the lack of Internet or cellphone service, protesters poured onto the streets of Cairo, Alexandria and other major Egyptian cities. In Suez, there were violent clashes between the riot police and the demonstraters. In Cairo, the NDP building was set on fire. An Egyptian delegation of senior military officials cut short their trip to the United States and returned to Egypt because of the events. Mohammed ElBaradei marched on the street, but was later put on house arrest. The military entered the streets of Cairo, taking over from the riot police. Just after midnight, Mubarak appeared on a state-run news channel and asked his government to resign. President Obama made a statement a short time later from the White House urging calm and saying that "governments have a responsibility to respond to their citizens."
#Jan29: Egypt woke to more protests on the street, and many greeted the military presence with cheers. The day was much more peaceful than the day before, but a skirmish did break out at the Interior Ministry, where riot police inside the building shot into a crowd, possibly killing three people. There were reports of looting and vandalism, including at the Egyptian museum. Mubarak announced a new vice president, Omar Suleiman, and many saw it as an apparent step in setting up a succession plan. As reports of looting intensified, Egyptian civilians moved to guard their own neighborhoods, as many reported there was virtually no police or military presence on the streets.
Around the world, people gathered outside Egyptian embassies to voice their solidarity with the protests in Egypt. Here are few of the images:
From the Post's Janine Zacharia in Cairo:
A privileged and respected elite in Egypt, the armed forces have always been the backbone of power for Mubarak, who at 82 is battling an unknown illness but still cultivates jet-black hair intended to project youthful vigor. There was no indication that leading officers would abandon a leader to whom they owe their comfortable salaries and housing.
But the protesters' cheers that greeted the military vehicles rolling into Cairo and Alexandria on Friday clearly suggested a hope from Mubarak's opponents that the military this time would choose to side with the people.
"The question mark in my mind is, what are the generals doing?" said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst now at the Brookings Institution in Washington. "Are they saying: We want to protect our prerogatives, but we are prepared to jettison Hosni Mubarak? That we don't know. That's what happened in Tunisia."
Though Mubarak's cabinet has resigned, and a new vice president and prime minister have been named, the changes are seen by most as superficial. Omar Suleiman, the new vice president, was the intelligence chief Friday and Ahmed Shafiq, the new prime minister, was the minister of civil aviation.
Suleiman's appointment is seen as an apparent step in setting up a successor for Mubarak. Mubarak's son, Gamal, had previously been considered as Mubarak's successor.
Ian Black, the Guardian's Middle East editor, filed a profile of Suleiman talking about how he once saved Mubarak from an assassination attempt in Addis Ababa in 1995, Suleiman's involvement in brokering peace between Israel and Palestine and how he figures prominently in US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks. "The US and other western governments will see him as a safe pair of hands," Black writes. "But for how long is impossible to say."
By around 9:30 p.m. Cairo time, Egyptian blogger Wael Abbas reported spotty cellphone service, as well as some access to Internet. He asked people to remove their passwords from their wireless connections to allow their neighbors access. Others said they were still unable to get online. Reuters reports that Vodafone defended its decision to shut down mobile operations under pressure from the government. "The authorities in Egypt have the technical capability to close our network, and if they had done so it would have taken much longer to restore services to our customers," a Vodafone spokesman said.
cell phones are all working fine now but sms is still blocked
I want to confirm that Internet connection in Egypt is working so I can get off twitter and go to the street
Getting the 3G signal on my phone was such a false alarm, disappointing the internet is still not here
The BBC reports that David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy both called Hosni Mubarak Saturday. The two men also issued a joint statement with Angela Merkel:
There must be full respect for human rights and democratic freedoms, including freedom of expression and communication, including use of telephones and the internet, and the right of peaceful assembly... The Egyptian people have legitimate grievances and a longing for a just and better future. We urge President Mubarak to embark on a process of transformation which should be reflected in a broad-based government and in free and fair elections."
Raw video from the Daily News Egypt captures a confrontation Saturday morning between Egyptian police and protesters off Tahrir Square in Cairo. According to the English-language Daily News:
Police fired shotguns into the air to announce their presence, following a night of massive civil unrest in Cairo. A group of protesters moved towards them from Tahrir Square. Three Egyptian military armored vehicles moved in to obstruct police fire, seemingly to protect protesters. The following raw footage shows what happened next.
Post photographer Bill O'Leary just left the Egyptian embassy, where he estimates about 200 to 300 people came to protest against the Egyptian government. He said the crowd was "chanting, very peaceful, intense and emotional." Tunisians attended in solidarity with the group.
The Muslim Brotherhood has not had as large a role in the protests as some expected them to. Reporter Sharif Kouddous reported on Twitter earlier Saturday: In Tahrir Square, "Muslim Brotherhood chanting Allah Akbar. Crowd stopped them chanting louder: Muslim, Christian, we're all Egyptian."
However, the Associated Press reports that the leader of Jordan's Muslim Brotherhood, Hammam Saeed, said Arabs will topple any Middle Eastern leader backed by the United States.
"The Americans and [President] Obama must be losing sleep over the popular revolt in Egypt," he said. "Now, Obama must understand that the people have woken up and are ready to unseat the tyrant leaders who remained in power because of U.S. backing."
To see a full gallery, go here.
There have been a number of accounts indicating that there is almost no police or military presence on the street; keeping order has apparently fallen to ordinary citizens. CNN reporter Ben Wedeman wrote on Twitter, "Almost all police stations ransacked, arsenals looted. Suddenly weapons in the streets wielded by thugs. Where is the army?" Al Jazeera reports:
Ayman Mohyeldin reports that eyewitnesses have said "party thugs" associated with the Egyptian regime's Central Security Services -- in plainclothes but bearing government-issued weapons -- have been looting in Cairo. Ayman says the reports started off as isolated accounts but are now growing in number.
Wael Abbas, an Egyptian journalist and online activist, said on Twitter that reports of looting are exaggerated by state-run media to convince protesters to go home.
The Associated Press reports: "Egyptian security officials say at least 62 people have been killed nationwide over the last two days of mass anti-government protests. The officials say an additional 2,000 people have been injured in the demonstrations, that have included violent clashes between police and protesters." The figures cannot be independently verified.
The Post's Jeff Stein has more on Gen. Omar Suleiman on his Spy Talk blog:
Suleiman graduated from Egypt's prestigious Military Academy but also received training in the Soviet Union. Under his guidance, Egyptian intelligence has worked hand-in-glove with the CIA's counterterrorism programs, most notably in the 2003 rendition of an al-Qaeda suspect known as Abu Omar from Italy.
In 2009, Foreign Policy magazine ranked Suleiman as the Middle East's most powerful intelligence chief, ahead of Mossad chief Meir Dagan.
In an observation that may turn out to be ironic, the magazine wrote, "More than from any other single factor, Suleiman's influence stems from his unswerving loyalty to Mubarak."
The Post's financial reporter Neil Irwin spoke to MSNBC about the economic impact of the protests:
It appears that the Egyptian army has set up a hot line for people to call to report any looting:
Army Hotline to report looting, call 19614 #Jan25 Egypt | Please spread the word
While Egypt burns in protest, some have commented on the strange juxtaposition of world leaders attending festive parties at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. One moment united the protests and Davos, with Randi Zuckerberg, the marketing director of Facebook, tweeting out:
Just had a "Davos moment" - A Tunisian minister came up to thank me profusely "for a technology that powers a bloodless revolution." Chills.
(For all the Post's Davos coverage, go here.)
Though looters were stopped at the Egyptian Museum, two mummies were vandalized when would-be looters ripped the mummies' heads off. At least 10 other artifacts were damaged. Young Egyptians stopped the looting, forming a human chain around the museum. Zahi Hawass, head of antiquities at the museum, told the Associated Press he is fearful that the National Democratic Party of Egypt headquarters, which is still on fire, may fall over and damage the museum.
Looting has been reported in other parts of the city, as well as well as civilians taking up sticks to protect their neighbors. The BBC points to this YouTube video that shows army tanks entering Rihab city, north of Cairo, after looting was reported:
Hosni Mubarak's son, Gamal, has left Egypt and arrived in London, NBC's Richard Engel reports. Gamal Mubarak was seen as the likeliest candidate to succeed his father as Egypt's leader. However, BBC says that state-owned TV channel al-Misriyah denies the flight saying, "There is no truth to what has been broadcast by some channels on the travel of Alaa and Gamal Mubarak to London."
Ahmed Shafiq, the minister of civil aviation, has been named the new prime minister.
Egyptians are crowding into the streets in Cairo, chanting for the end of Hosni Mubarak's regime and protesting against the decision to appoint Omar Suleiman vice president. Al Jazeera reports that the demonstrators are carrying a dead body of one of the protesters through the streets in front of the Interior Ministry in Cairo. The crowd is chanting, "Mubarak, Mubarak, Saudi Arabia is waiting for you."
A video released about 45 minutes ago by the Associated Press shows a still-smoldering city the day after violent protests in Suez, Egypt. In the video, people are chanting as the military watches. Buildings and cars are still smoking and coffins are carried through the streets as women wail:
According to the Egyptian state news agency, Hosni Mubarak has appointed Omar Suleiman as his vice president. Mubarak has not had a vice president since 1989. He has not had a vice president since 1989. The Telegraph called Suleiman, "the fixer in the shadows who may emerge as Egypt's leader," in 2009. He is the director of Egypt's intelligence service.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley tweeted a message that echoes President Obama's from last night::
With protesters still on the streets of #Egypt, we remain concerned about the potential for violence and again urge restraint on all sides.
The people of #Egypt no longer accept the status quo. They are looking to their government for a meaningful process to foster real reform.
Riot police set up inside the Interior Ministry have started firing on the crowd in Tahrir Square, CNN reports.
On microblogging sites in China similar to Twitter, a search for the word "Egypt" yields no results, Agence France-Presse reports. Though media in China have reported on the protests, there have been complaints that the story is being played down in the communist nation. The lead story on the homepage of Xinhua, the official state news agency, is about Chinese tennis player Li Na's loss in the Australian Open; scant information has been provided about the motivation behind the protests.
Saudi Arabia strongly condemns the protest.The state-run Saudi Press Agency reports that the nation's King Abdullah called Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to offer his full support, condemning the protests, CNN reports. "No Arab and Muslim human being can bear that some infiltrators, in the name of freedom of expression, have infiltrated into the brotherly people of Egypt, to destabilize its security and stability and they have been exploited to spew out their hatred in destruction, intimidation, burning, looting and inciting a malicious sedition," the network reported him saying.
Jordan has promised reform. Jordan's King Abdullah II has promised reforms in meetings with members of parliament, former prime ministers, civil society institutions and even Jordan's largest opposition group, the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood Movement, the Associated Press reports. However, the promises may not stop the Muslim Brotherhood from calling for protests.
The Palestinian leader also voiced his support for Mubarak. Al Arabiya is reporting that that Mahmoud Abbas phoned Mubarak to offer his support.
Iran has continued to voice its support for the demonstrators. A spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry expected Egypt to "respond to [protesters'] rightful demands and refrain from exerting violence," according to Press TV, Iran's English-language state media, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Sharif Kouddous, a producer for "Democracy Now!," is tweeting from Tahrir Square. Despite the curfew, he says thousands of people are in the square and there have been some sounds of gunfire. He's using a program to get around the Internet blockage.
One soldier carried on shoulders through crowd holding a flower. The people cheer him on. #Egypt
It's curfew. People are not leaving. They say the army won't open fire. But there are some sounds of gunfire. #Egypt
There was just a moment where people thought Mubarak had left. A massive cheer gripped the crowd. But it stopped when rumor died.
A number of prisons have seen uprisings and revolts. BBC reports that the Abu Zaabal prison in Cairo has been overtaken by the political prisoners, though police have still been able to keep them locked inside. And a riot has broken out at the Shabeen al-Qom prison in the city of Al Minufiyah. Al Jazeera reports that eight inmates died in a fire at a Cairo prison.
Demonstrators are gathering in New York, London and Washington to show their solidarity with Egyptian protesters. In London, people are meeting outside the Egyptian Embassy, with the Facebook invitation saying, "A bigger number coming to the protest motivates our families back in Egypt!!" Demonstrators held Egyptian flags and shouted slogans outside the White House on Friday and will convene again at the Egyptian Embassy on Saturday. Already 864 guests have confirmed their attendance on the Facebook page.
The Post's Leila Fadel has this gripping report from the front line of the battle in Suez Friday:
Haddad watched from above with his wife, Suheid el Gamal, 50, and their daughter, Passant, 23.
The mobs of young men ran toward rows of police in full riot gear. They pummeled armored vehicles with stones as explosions rocked the buildings around them and tear gas filled the air.
The demonstrators quickly overwhelmed the police and rushed the armored vans, looting them for supplies. They wrestled weapons away from policemen and set their vehicles ablaze. The protesters threw tear gas canisters at the police, who returned fire with tear gas and rubber bullets.
Haddad darted in and out most of the day, trying to avoid shrapnel from the explosions and gunfire below. Passant and her mother urged him to stay inside as white plumes of gas filled their second-floor apartment.
In the hallway outside, a policeman who had been disarmed wept. "In this whole apartment building, not one family will open its door to me?" he cried, collapsing on the floor. Haddad gave him water and quickly went back inside. The family's early elation turned to fear and sadness. "His friend is on fire inside one of those vans," Haddad said, shaking his head.
"It shouldn't happen like this. Not like this," his wife replied. "I feel like I'm in a dream."
Suddenly, there was pounding at the door as protesters begged for water and onions to absorb the fumes from the tear gas.
Gamal passed supplies to her husband, who slipped them out through the door.
Then more banging. "Please let us in! He's going to die!" someone screamed from outside.
A boy appeared faint near the door. Haddad quickly pulled him inside while blocking others from entering. He fanned the boy with a newspaper as his wife brought water. "Why are you in the street?" Haddad asked. "You should be in school. Why did you go down there?"
Haddad muttered prayers and then told the boy to take deep breaths.
From our correspondent Griff Witte:
Smoke billowed Saturday from the hulking remains of the National Democratic Party headquarters building, home to Mubarak's ruling organization. The building - a prominent symbol of 82-year-old Mubarak's autocratic 30-year rule - was reduced to little more than a smoldering mound of concrete.
Yesterday was a chaotic day, with violent clashes throughout the country, the military rolling into most major cities, the Cairo airport being shut down and President Hosni Mubarak dissolving his government, but refusing to resign. Here's where things stand now:
• People still throng the streets of the cities, shouting slogans and facing off against the military. There have been no reports of fresh violence, but the army issued a statement asserting that anyone gathered in Cairo's main squares would be treated as a criminal.
• Egyptian medical officials say 30 to 35 people have been killed and 2,000 wounded in the protests since Friday, bringing the death toll in the week's unrest to at least 45. Ten policemen are among those killed in the past two days of clashes, they said. However, the casualty figures were impossible to verify.
• There are reports of looting and burning, however there are also reports that protesters have taken it on themselves to defend the Egyptian museum and other properties, fighting against the looters and trying to keep the peace. Civilians stand guard around the museum, linking arms to form a human shield.
• The cabinet has officially met to submit its resignation, the official news agency Mena reports.
• The Internet is still reportedly down, though cellphone service has been reportedly restored. Service has been uneven, though.
• The curfew has been set for 4 p.m. and 8 a.m. However, the curfew Friday night went largely ignored.
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