Egypt Live Protests: Audio From The Ground, Violent clashes in Tahrir Square
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It's past midnight in Cairo and fires still burn in Tahrir Square. Egypt's health minister said that three people are dead and 639 injured after Wednesday's clashes, Ben Wedeman from CNN wrote on Twitter. From reports, the anti-government supporters have regained control of the square, but Richard Engle from NBC said he is still hearing gunfire. We'll wind down the live blog now, but we'll be back tomorrow to follow the events. Check our homepage for news through the night.
Sen. John McCain calls for Mubarak to step down:
Regrettably the time has come 4 Pres. Mubarak 2 step down & relinquish power. It's in the best interest of Egypt, its people & its military.
The New York Times just put up a great interactive map showing where the protests have taken place in Cairo over the past week. Check it out here.
Victoria Mixon, one of our readers, took umbrage with the term "pro-Mubarak supporters." It turns out she's not the only one. Elizabeth Dickinson at Foreign Policy spoke over the phone with Joe Stork of Human Rights Watch. He's on the ground in Cairo. He says there's a problem with calling the violence on the streets "spats between 'rival protesters:'
Stork said, "This is the government sending in people -- whether they are paid or not is a very subsidiary question -- sending in thugs armed with knives, stones, sticks, to attack the pro-democracy protesters, who were there in an entirely peaceful manner."
Stork also said he spoke to people in Cairo who claimed young men were being paid hundreds of dollars to fight for the Mubarak regime.
CNN is reporting that pro-Mubarak demonstrators in Cairo are organized by the Mubarak government. From CNN: "There were immediate suspicions that the pro-Mubarak demonstrators were not simply average citizens standing up for the man who has led Egypt for three decades -- suspicions that proved at least partly founded."
The uprising in Egypt has been fomenting for years. In 2008, the Washington Post wrote about young people trying to kick off the revolution by using Facebook, but finding their protest fizzling. Two years later, one of the original activists, Ahmed Maher, watched his long-hoped-for revolution kicked off. Now, Wired.com reports that Maher may have been arrested in Wednesday's clash. The arrest cannot be immediately confirmed.
Another oft-cited inspiration for the revolution is a video recorded Jan. 18 that quickly went viral in Egypt. In it, Asma Mahfouz encourages people to come to the protest on Jan. 25. Roger Ebert linked to the video on Wednesday with a comment from Omer Mozaffar, one of his correspondents. Mozaffar wrote, "Perhaps, when the Egyptian President finally sees this video, he will say to Asma Mahfouz, 'So you are the little woman who made the video that started this great war!'" Here's her video:
If you're in Egypt with a story to tell about this week's events, the Post is collecting English-language dispatches or photographs from anyone who has first-hand information about what's happening there. We will be publishing selected stories on our Web site in the coming days. Share your story here.
Here's a bit from one of our first submissions: "The complete breakdown of the security forces was very concerning. Most neighborhoods resorted to bands of homeowners, local young men and some hired mercenaries to set up checkpoints and vigilantes armed with wooden and metal sticks, old swords and whatever else people could find. One acquaintance even armed his building crew with large cans of pepper spray and entrusted his Taser to the head vigilante."
Here are a few more comments from the White House press briefing with Robert Gibbs:
• The President and this administration strongly condemn the outrageous and deplorable violence that's taking place on the streets of Cairo. We have said that throughout this process. Obviously, if any of the violence is instigated by the government, it should stop immediately.
• This underscores precisely what the President was speaking about last night, and that is, the time for a transition has come, and that time is now. The Egyptian people need to see change. We know that that meaningful transition must include opposition voices and parties being involved in this process as we move towards free and fair elections. But that process must begin now.
• You have seen statements from throughout the world, from both in the region and outside the region, where President Obama and leaders have been clear about what needs to happen. Many of these changes are gonna have to happen on the ground in Egypt. And only those in Egypt will determine when those demands have been satisfied. It is clear that the Egyptian people need to see progress and change immediately.
Tweets paint a harrowing picture of the violence in Tahrir Square:
Below our window, sounds like a medieval castle seige. Men digging up stones for ammo. Wounded screaming. Prayers.
Nightfall. Bloody battle continues to rage here in Tahrir Square. We are trapped inside with the opposition, who say they'll fight to death.
#egypt watching flaming bombs being dropped from buildings..
Bursts of automatic weapons fire just now, west of #Tahrir. A miracle that only 1 person is known to have died today.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs is speaking live now at a briefing. He said, "the time for change has come, and that time is now:"
Al Jazeera reports that one person was killed in Wednesday's violence and more than 400 were injured.
Attacks on foreign media have increased with four Israeli journalists arrested, a number of journalists beaten and equipment being smashed by the pro-Mubarak crowd. For the full story on injured journalists, read the full story here. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley responded to the news with a message on Twitter, saying the U.S. was "concerned" by the reports.
We are concerned about detentions and attacks on news media in #Egypt. The civil society that Egypt wants to build includes a free press.
Here's footage from Cairo square where thousands of supporters and opponents of President Hosni Mubarak battled in Cairo's main square, raining stones, bottles and firebombs on each other in scenes of uncontrolled violence chaos as soldiers stood by without intervening.
With images of tanks on fire and Moltov cocktails soaring through the air in the crowded Tahrir Square, total chaos seems to have broken out amid what was a peaceful protest earlier Wednesday morning. As most signs indicate the violence being waged by supporters of President Hosni Mubarak, the White House chief of staff William Daley said the Obama administration had no warning that violence would erupt when he spoke to Mubarak on Tuesday night. CNN reports that the Daley also said the U.S. has had "extensive, continuing contacts," with the military.
Let us know in this quiz if you think Obama has handled the Egypt situation well.
Gunfire is being heard on live feeds from Tahrir Square. Al Jazeera reports that Moltov cocktails are being thrown into the crowd and into the Egyptian museum. Al Jazeera also reports that some of the pro-Mubarak supporters have been caught by anti-government protesters carrying police ID badges, adding fuel to the belief that the show of violence is in some part being organized by the government. You can watch the conflict live on Al Jazeera here.
As the protests remained peaceful throughout the weekend, scores of children were brought into the square. Now, Moltov cocktails are being tossed into the crowds of Mubarak supporters, CNN reports. An Al Jazeera reporter cries on air during a report, about how she and young people are trapped in the square:
Bloody clashes going on right now between protesters and gov't hired thugs. 1000s of women & children trapped in Tahrir Sq. #Egypt
As the Tahrir Square remains in a tense stand-off, here's a quick update on how the world is responding to the protests:
• China continues to censor:Chinese leaders do not want news from Egypt to inspire revolt in China, Foreign Policy reports. China state television has been repeatedly showing images of burning vehicles and scenes of chaos and the 457 million Internet users (and 180 million bloggers) can no longer use the Chinese word for "Egypt." "The government's goal is to pre-empt any contagion effect that popular uprisings against autocracy in the Middle East might have in China, inspiring the country's ranks of discontented," Abraham Denmark writes.
• Yemen president won't seek reelection: The Associated Press is reporting that Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh told parliament Wednesday that he will not seek another term in office. He also said he would not hand power of to his son. Protests inspired by uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia have loosened his grip on the country. Saleh raised salaries for the army in an attempt to garner more support, but it hasn't stopped protesters.
• Israel concerned: The current strife in Egypt has Israel worried. Egypt has played a critical role in Israeli/Palestinian negotiation over the last several years, and the Post's Janine Zacharia reports that strife in Jordan as well as Egypt has Israel worried that historic peace treaties with those countries might not withstand revolution in the region. Israel is also dealing with the recent rise of Hezbollah in Lebanon.
• Obama to Mubarak: Move 'now:' In remarks issued Tuesday, President Obama said that a transition to a representative government "must begin now." However, in a carefully measured statement Tuesday night, he did not go so far as to tell Mubarak to step down immediately.
For almost four days, peace reigned in Tahrir Square. But just in the past few hours, pro-Mubarak supporters streamed into the center of Cairo. Riders on horses and camels entered and started whipping and clubbing anti-Mubarak demonstrators. The foreign media was attacked as well. Griff Witte reports on the chaotic scene in Cairo:
Protests continue in the streets of Egypt. As our correspondent's report from Cairo, "the atmosphere turned violent as the anti-government crowds were confronted by angry Mubarak supporters. CNN reports that some protesters are in critical condition after being attacked. The army has not made any attempt to break up the violence.
Just before the violence broke out, Leila Fadel spoke to some pro-Mubarak supporters. Here's her audio report from Egypt:
After a week-long internet and cellphone blockout, service was restored as of 4:30 a.m. EST (11:30 a.m. EET). Arbor Networks graphed the returned to service:
Melissa Bell and Sam Sanders
| February 2, 2011; 8:37 AM ET
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