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Egypt Sends Its Military To Counter Street Protests
    #520294 - 01/28/11 04:06 PM (5 years, 8 months ago)

Article, with audio.

January 28, 2011

Armored military vehicles rumbled through the streets of the Egyptian capital on Friday in a crackdown on countrywide anti-government protesters that went head-to-head with riot police and set fire to the ruling party headquarters.
Egyptian anti-government activists clashed with riot police in downtown Cairo on Friday as tear gas and black smoke filled the air.
Enlarge Ben Curtis/AP

Egyptian anti-government activists clashed with riot police in downtown Cairo on Friday as tear gas and black smoke filled the air.
Egyptian anti-government activists clashed with riot police in downtown Cairo on Friday as tear gas and black smoke filled the air.
Ben Curtis/AP

Egyptian anti-government activists clashed with riot police in downtown Cairo on Friday as tear gas and black smoke filled the air.

TV broadcasts showed armored personnel carriers at key intersections in Cairo as darkness fell on a "Friday of Wrath" that saw stones hurled by protesters met by rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons from police. The ruling party headquarters in the capital was ablaze and the country's main opposition leader was placed under house arrest as part of a government crackdown.

Defying a nationwide curfew, protesters were attempting to storm two major government buildings: the state TV and the Foreign Ministry. Other demonstrators were praying on the streets after nightfall.

TV broadcasts showed armored personnel carriers at key intersections in Cairo as darkness fell on a day that saw stones hurled by protesters met by rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons from police.

Egypt's national carrier, EgyptAir, said it has suspended its flights from Cairo for 12 hours.

Security officials said there were protests in at least 11 of Egypt's 28 provinces. The scenes of chaos were a near replay of the violence that swept through another North African country, Tunisia, earlier this month and forced out the autocratic government.

President Hosni Mubarak ordered the nationwide nightly curfew from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. He told the military to work in tandem with police to enforce the dusk-to-dawn lockdown.

In Cairo, a phalanx of riot police wearing helmets and carrying shields moved in early Friday to intercept anti-government demonstrators heading to Tahrir Square, which has become center stage for the protests in the capital.

The protesters marched across the Kasr Al Nile Bridge and were moving toward the square when police began firing tear gas and water cannons into the crowd.

Tahrir is "the spot where the end game is taking place as the Egyptians see it," said NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, reporting from a hotel overlooking the square. She said about 10,000 demonstrators tried to enter the square but that "police basically blocked off the people."
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"There's a lot of firing going on right now," Nelson said. "The first groups of protesters have broken through. Police are fighting them back with tear gas and rubber bullets." She said thousands more protesters were jamming the main bridge across the Nile that leads to the square in an effort to break through the police lines.

Al Jazeera said at least one person was killed. The Qatar-based news channel also said that Ayman Nour, a contender in Egypt's 2005 presidential race, was among the dozens wounded in Tahrir Square.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate and pro-democracy advocate Mohamed ElBaradei joined protesters early in the day but was later placed under house arrest at his suburban Cairo home a day after he returned to Egypt vowing to push for regime change.

ElBaradei was among those who were hit by water cannons during the protest. Some of his supporters were beaten by police after forming a barrier with their bodies in an effort to protect him. ElBaradei was later forced to hole up inside a mosque while hundreds of riot police laid siege to it, firing tear gas in the surrounding streets so no one could leave. The tear gas canisters set cars ablaze outside the mosque, and several people fainted and suffered burns.

At the upscale Mohandiseen district, at least 10,000 people were marching toward the city center chanting "down, down with Mubarak!" The crowd later swelled to about 20,000 as they made their way through residential areas.
Series: Life In Egypt Today

In late November, NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson spent a week examining life in the Arab world's most populous country.
Discontent Swells In Hosni Mubarak's Egypt Nov. 22, 2010
As It Shifts, Egypt's Economy Retains Some Oddities Nov. 23, 2010
In Cairo Slum, Little Hope For Change Nov. 24, 2010
Egypt's State Security Gets Very Interested When Reporters Talk To Bedouins Nov. 25, 2010
Will He? Won't He? Egypt's Voters Focus On Mubarak Nov. 26, 2010

At this stage, the Egyptian protesters simply "want Mr. Mubarak to step down, his regime to go, his Cabinet to leave [and] the parliament that was elected in controversial elections" in 2005 to be dissolved, Nelson said.

The protesters also gained the backing of the country's biggest opposition group, the Islamic fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, which called on its supporters to join the demonstrations.

Earlier, authorities shut down Internet and cell-phone services nationwide in an apparent effort to disrupt the protests that have quickly grown into the biggest-ever challenge to Mubarak's rule.

Mubarak, 82, is Washington's closest Arab ally. But the United States has signaled that the Egyptian president no longer enjoys its full backing, publicly counseling him to introduce reform and refrain from using violence against the protesters.

"The legitimate grievances that have festered for quite some time in Egypt have to be addressed by the Egyptian government immediately, and violence is not the response," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters Friday afternoon.

Gibbs said the United States "will be reviewing our assistance posture based on events in the coming days" in Egypt, but did not offer specifics.

President Obama has not spoken to Mubarak, Gibbs said. Asked why not, Gibbs said "we're monitoring a very fluid situation."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on the Egyptian government "to do everything in its power to restrain security forces" but noted that "protesters should also refrain from violence and express themselves peacefully."

"We want to continue to partner with the Egyptian government and the Egyptian people. What will eventually happen in Egypt is still up to Egyptians," Clinton told reporters in Washington.

Edward Walker, a former ambassador to Egypt and Israel in the Clinton administration, told NPR that Mubarak would be "making a big mistake" not to take the situation in Cairo seriously.

"If I had to guess, I'd guess [the government] will get this under control in the next few days," Walker told NPR. "But if they don't take it as a big, big, warning sign and start making some changes, it's just going to happen again, and it's going to get worse every time."

Mubarak and his government have said they are ready for dialogue but have shown no hint of concessions to the protesters who want political reform and a solution to rampant poverty, unemployment and rising food prices.

In fact, Mubarak himself has been notably absent in recent days. "There has been no word of him," Nelson said.

She added that when the ruling National Democratic Party held a news conference Thursday, "it was the secretary-general — one of the officials of the party — and not the president who spoke."

"To say that nothing is true, is to realize that the foundations of society are fragile, and that we must be the shepherds of our own civilization. To say that everything is permitted, is to understand that we are the architects of our actions, and that we must live with their consequences, whether glorious or tragic."

"Je pense, donc je suis (I am thinking, therefore I am)." -Rene Descartes

I am tired of Earth
I am tired of these people

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