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Saturday
Jan292011

Egypt (and Beyond) LiveBlog: Mubarak Still in Power?

0654 GMT: Touching news coming out of Egypt. Several activists in social media from Egypt are saying that women will be participating heavily and lead the protests today because the men spent the night protecting families from the thugs and looters. 

0635 GMT: And now Al Jazeera is reporting the buzzing sound of helicopters over Cairo. 

0610 GMT: Ramy Raoof tweets from Cairo: 

urgent| eye-witness: several cars leaving now Ministry of Interior in #Cairo and shooting fire on demonstrations. #Egypt #Jan25

We cannot confirm this through other sources. 

0409 GMT: Thousands are still out on Egypt's streets. But not all of them are out because they're protesting against the government. Many are out to protect their neighborhoods against the 'thugs' and 'looters' that are trying to turn the uprising into a matter of 'security' and 'stability'. 

But have they forgotten about the uprising? 

@Alaa gives a great response: 

People standing in freezing weather protecting their homes are all pissed at one person only: Mubarak

 0122 GMT: After Egypt, some Syrians are calling for protests in that country on February 5. Calls for the Sudanese to come out to protest against their dictator Omar Al Bashir are also being circulated

0105 GMT: There is a report being circulated from Al Jazeera Magazine, quoting unnamed sources that claims that President Hosni Mubarak is seeking refuge in Israel after being rejected a safe haven by Saudi Arabian authorities. 

This is unconfirmed by other sources. At the same time, Al Jazeera Magazine is different from the Al Jazeera TV station that is located in Qatar and on whose reports we've all been relying on to get information about the Egyptian uprising.  

0100 GMT: On Twitter, Ayman Mohyeldin reports that 6,000 prisoners have escaped from the Abu Zaabel prison. Further chaos for the government to control?  

2344 GMT: Last night, the US government wanted reform in Egypt. But today, it seems that even it doesn't think those reforms will be delivered by simply removing some allies for more allies by President Hosni Mubarak. US Department of State Spokesman P.J. Crowley called him out on it pretty bluntly:

"The Egyptian government can't reshuffle the deck and then stand pat. President Mubarak's words pledging reform must be followed by action." 

But then something remarkable happened. Neither Crowley, nor anyone else from the White House started to talk about the same old themes of stability and reform. Politico reports

Key American officials spent Saturday morning in a two-hour meeting and another hour briefing President Barack Obama in the afternoon. 

Robert Kagan thinks it shows a shift in US policy.

“They’re not as on the fence as people think,” Kagan, of the Brookings Institution, said by e-mail Saturday, referring to the U.S. administration. “I think the administration knows there has to be some kind of transition soon.” 

 

2247 GMT: A German news agency is claiming 19 private planes have departed Cairo Airport carrying Egyptian and Arab businessmen and families.

 

2245 GMT: Tens of thousands of protesters are still in central Cairo, with food being organised for them.

2240 GMT: A senior police officer has been kidnapped in Damietta, 200kilometres/120miles north of Cairo. Tarek Hammad is Head of Damietta Security.

2230 GMT: Escalating story tonight of at least one sniper in the Ministry of Interior picking off protesters outside the building. Witnesses are saying 10 to 15 people have been shot dead and dozens have been wounded. Dr Muhammad Hassan tells Al Jazeera that dead protestors from the area are flooding the makeshift field hospital.

2225 GMT: Al Jazeera reports the death of Major General Mohammed El-Batran, head of the Investigative Unit at Fayoum Central Jail in middle Egypt, 130 kilometres (80 miles) southwest of Cairo. About 700 prisoners have fled.

2130 GMT: Reports of clashes in 6 October suburb of Cairo between resident and "30 thugs in police cars trying to break into the area".

2115 GMT: A report from Thomas v. der Osten-Sacken of World Jungle News, whose photo essay on Tunisia was in EA today:

 

Around 5000 Tunisians were demonstrating today for real securalism and equality of women and men. This is the best face of the Tunisian revolution.

 

We will have Osten-Sacken's photo essay on the rally tomorrow morning. Here's a preview:

2105 GMT: From Egypt, "On the phone to Nasr City/Makram Ebeid area, hearing loads of cheering and clapping as the army arrives in their street."

2100 GMT: Al Jazeera reports that fire has engulfed the Supreme Council of Journalism and surrounding buildings in central Cairo with no firefighters to be seen.

2055 GMT: Report that 3G service is back on Mobinil but not yet on Vodafone.

2053 GMT: A first-hand report from the Bulaq section of Cairo, "Police Station a ball of flames. Heavy gunfire."

2050 GMT: Ben Wedeman of CNN reports, "My wonderful wife has handed out baseball bats, clubs, kitchen knives and tea to neighbourhood patrol."

And this from another Egyptian, "Just spoke to my dad. He and 15 others have setup checkpoint underneath their building, ID-ing everyone"

2045 GMT: Reports come in from various sources of mosques urging area youth to help secure neighbourhoods. One mosque has announced the emergency phone number 0104888848 for assistance.

2020 GMT: About 200 Jordanian activists rallied outside the offices of Prime Minister Samir Rafai shouting "Our government is a bunch of thieves" and holding banners reading "No to poverty or hunger".

2018 GMT: Al Arabiya reports from witnesses that Bedouin protesters have stormed a Police Bureau and confiscated weapons in Arish in the Sinai.

2015 GMT: A resident in Nasr City in Cairo reports no police, local armed youth armed the neighborhood, roads barricaded, and passers-by welcomig the Army.

2010 GMT: Egyptian officials say 62 people have been killed and 2000 injured in the last two days.

 

Al Jazeera, from medical sources, reports 99 dead in the cities of Alexandria, Suez, and Cairo alone (see 1821 GMT).

2000 GMT: Al Jazeera is reporting that Suzanne Mubarak, the wife of the President, has left for London.

1950 GMT: In Yemen dozens of activists have called for the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, clashing with government supporters and plainclothes police.

The demonstrators marched to the Egyptian Embassy in the capital of Sanaa chanting "Ali, leave leave" and "Tunisia left, Egypt after it, and Yemen in the coming future".

No casualties were reported.

1940 GMT: Al Jazeera reports the torching of the State Security and Police Bureau buildings in Damanhour, 160 kilometres/99 miles northwest of Cairo.

1903 GMT: Al Arabiya reports 8 killed and 17 injured in an attempt to storm the Police Bureau in Beni Suef, 115 kilometres/72 miles south of Cairo.

1900 GMT: Reuters summarises Friday's looting at the National Museum, including the destruction of two Pharaonic mummies.

1842 GMT: If and when Hosni Mubarak ousted, who will replace him? The Washington Post's Jeff Stein thinks it will be the intelligence chief Gen. Omar Suleiman, who was appointed as the Vice President today by Mubarak: 

Mohamed ElBaradeiwho won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work as the U.N. nuclear watchdog, would be forgiven for dreaming of leading a peaceful transition to a post-Hosni Mubarak government.

But longtime observers of the region are putting their money on Gen. Omar Suleiman, the powerful chief of Egyptian intelligence.

In office since 1993, Suleiman has reportedly been grating at Mubarak’s plan to install his son Gamal as his successor. With protests roiling Cairo, he may now see his moment has come.

1830 GMT: An EA correspondent spoke to a source in Egypt moments ago and submits this report: 

I just called my friend in Nasr City. He is standing outside now with other flat occupants with guns and sticks and knives.  He said all his friends in other areas have had to do this.  People are having to protect themselves.  He said I don't care what they take-my TV, computer...everything...but not my life.  I need to defend myself!'

 
Right now outside my friends' house in Heliopolis, the flat owners (men) have gone downstairs with sticks and knives and guns! A truck of thugs slowly approached and the men ran at the truck.  The truck then drove off! People are defending themselves! It has run riot and till now the army are where??

[1:18:53 PM] Scott Lucas: From EA correspondent w sources in Egypt:[1:19:20 PM] Scott Lucas: Nasr City:I just called my friend in Nasr City. He is standing outside now with other flat occupants with guns and sticks and knives.  He said all his friends in other areas have had to do this.  People are having to protect themselves.  He said I don't care what they take-my TV, computer...everything...but not my life.  I need to defend myself!' Right now outside my friends' house in Heliopolis, the flat owners (men) have gone downstairs with sticks and knives and guns! A truck of thugs slowly approached and the men ran at the truck.  The truck then drove off! People are defending themselves! It has run riot and till now the army are where??

 

1821 GMT: And the death toll from the crisis keeps rising. Al Jazeera's latest numbers are 25 in Cairo; 38 in Suez; and 36 in Alexandria. 

1812 GMT: Global intelligence gathering company Startfor just released a report claiming that Egyptian police had left their posts on the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and the Sinai. As a result, the report claims that members of Hamas were pouring into Egypt from Gaza and closely collaborating with the Muslim Brotherhood. 

We cannot confirm this here at EA. But more interestingly neither can Stratfor, the organization that released it. Then why release it? Well, it sure is getting quite a lot of hits on their website! 

1803 GMT: And what exactly do Egyptians think of US support for Hosni Mubarak? Ivan Watson of CNN reports from Cairo: 

Cairo Cab Driver: "Tell America to stop supporting this *$#&ing government"

Read his full report about the situation here.  
1756 GMT: As the night drags on and the military keeps telling people to go home - and in one case to defend their own property -, the mood in Cairo seems to be one of defiance. Nobody seems to want to leave the city center and give Mubarak and his government the chance to come to grips with situation. 

 

The immediate task of the government isn't forming a new government - it's getting thousands of people who've practically halted the state's day-to-day functioning impossible. Right now, it matters little who's in-charge because Egypt is in utter chaos. With ElBaradei free, the police scattered, the military unresponsive and the thugs unleashed, communication systems disrupted and the world watching, the government is more vulnerable than President Obama and the West think he is. 

What will Mubarak do? But more importantly, what will he be urged to do by world leaders if the situation remains the same?

1739 GMT: Mohamed ElBaradei, leader of the National Association for Change, is now making a statement. He says President Mubarak is "not heeding the call of the people" to step down and the change of figures in the Government will not make a difference.

ElBaradei says he holds Mubarak responsible for the deteriorating situation with looting and violence: "I am not aware who is in control, who is in command, the Presidency or the Army. People will demonstrate, they will not go home until justice is restored and democracy is gained""

ElBaradei warns that, if Mubarak does not step down, "Egypt will collapse". He called on Mubarak to step down today instead of tomorrow. 

1735 GMT: EA corrspondent reports that the Children's Cancer Hospital near Old Cairo has been looted.

1733 GMT: The Army have established a "hotline" number --- 19614 --- for people to report looting and violence. Other reported protection numbers are 0104772226 and 0108998024.

1729 GMT: EA correspondent brings news from Shubra in Cairo, of sexual threats to women and stealing from shops and houses: "Women have started to cook spices to throw in looters eyes and faces as protection. They've got knives with them and are all gathering together in the rooms, switched the lights off. Anything to protect themselves."

1725 GMT: Al Jazeera English showing footage of a soldier atop a military vehicle asking the people to help us "separate good from bad" by obeying the curfew.

1715 GMT: An EA correspondent brings more information from calls to Egypt:

 

Ex-prisoners, thugs and gangs have hit the streets [in sections of Cairo]! Outside my friend's flat, thugs and gangs shot live rounds in the air...shouted a bit. Thank God they've dispersed to other places.

 

Just now in Heliopolis (Masr Gedida): Thugs have hit the streets just round the corner from the presidential palace). The men from the flats have gone downstairs with sticks to protect it. All the lights have been switched off. People are TERRIFIED!

 

1710 GMT: Al Jazeera English has been showing pictures of the aftermath of the looting of the National Museum on Friday, despite a human shield was set up to protect the building.

This photograph now of security forces going into the museum to safeguard it:

1707 GMT: Eight people were killed in clashes between police and prisoners attempting to escape from Abu Zaabal Prison, northeast of Cairo.

A security source said 123 people were wounded.

Earlier today, in the most serious clash between police and protesters in Cairo, three people were killed as they tried to get into the Ministry of Interior.

1704 GMT: Daily News Egypt reports, "Tanks are seen in Maadi. Army firing warning shots to announce its presence & get residents protecting neighborhood to go home."

1700 GMT: 1st-hand from Egypt, "Some have formed makeshift barriers in Zamalek streets. Men armed with metal pipes check people, cars going through."

1655 GMT: Sherine Tadros of Al Jazeera reports "ghost town" in Suez as Army enforce curfew. Reports of anger of some protesters, arrests of three of them, and some scuffles.

16545 GMT: Medical sources in Alexandria confirm 33 people killed and 200 wounded.

1653 GMT: Earlier this afternoon, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa appeared to back demonstrators, leading some to suggest he was supporting the removal of President Mubarak: “I respect all people’s demands. Reforms have to take place immediately and they have to be sustained. The message of the people is clear."

1650 GMT: Egypt's Speaker of Parliament Fathi Sorour says there are no plans for early elections.

1645 GMT: Al Jazeera English is now conducting a panicked interview with an observer in Cairo, which affirms what we just reported about looting. Gangs "are taking everything they can. The main thing is, 'Where are the police who were shooting the protesters?'"

1640 GMT: However, even with appointment of a Vice President, the mass rallies in Egypt defying curfews, and the apparent reconcilation between Army and demonstrators, the big emerging story appears to be looting. An EA correspondent has been collecting reports this afternoon. Here is her unedited report:

I just called my best friend in Nasr City. Gangs have just gathered downstairs under their flat. They can't move and they are trapped! People are terrified. WHERE ARE THE ARMY? IT IS GETTING DARK!! Not sure I'm excited about this anymore.

Calls from Maadi, Mohendiseen, Nasr City, and Moqattam: people are terrified. They cannot leave their flats because gangs are standing outside threatening them with machetes and sticks. Oh wait: the army are too busy high 5'ing protestors outside the State TV station. Oh...THAT'S where they are!

Remember Scott I said earlier my friend said her family in Shubra [in Cairo] saw looters raid the police station and even took their uniforms. Now the problem is no-one knows who anyone is anymore.

I've switched from Al Jazeera arabic to Al Arabiya to mehwar and all those calling into the stations are BEGGING the army to establisih order because organised thugs and gangs have taken over. There is certainly an air of urgency that the army do something.

1635 GMT: The big political news is that President Mubarak has appointed Omar Suleiman, the head of Egyptian intelligence, as his Vice President. It is the first time that Mubarak has appointed a deputy since his rise to power in 1981.

We'll have more on Suleiman as we get time to update, but he has been most prominent recently as a broker in both Israel-Palestine talks and discussions between Palestinian factions.

Al Jazeera's Ayman Mohyeldin, who is covering the mass protest in Tahrir Square in Cairo, reported that protesters denounced both Mubarak and Suleiman when they heard the news.

Ahmed Shafiq has been asked by Mubarak to form a new government, according to State TV. Shafiq has served as Civil Aviation Minister.

1630 GMT: Al Jazeera is reporting that Gamal and Alaa Mubarak, the sons of the Egyptian President, have arrived in London with their families. Egyptian State TV have denied hte reports.

1625 GMT: Back from a break to find Al Jazeera reporting that protesters in Alexandria are arresting police officers caught looting and handing them over to soldiers.

1245 GMT: We are handing over to live footage from Al Jazeera for the next few hours. We will return about 1615 GMT with a summary of developments.

1220 GMT: Al Jazeera is now reporting that at least 95 people have died in protests.

1152 GMT: A possible key point --- the President has extended the curfew to 4 p.m. (1400 GMT), which is only an hour after the called demonstration in Tahrir Square in Cairo. Will it be enforced?

A spokesman for the military says it is keen now to use violence.

1149 GMT: For American readers, this may resonate: "They've set Hardee's on fire" near Tahrir Square in Cairo.

Hardee's is a fast food chain, known for its large calorie- and fat-packed burgers, in the US.

1148 GMT: An Al Arabiya reporter says that Egyptian civilians have started to manage traffic flow due to a lack of any police presence in Cairo.

1147 GMT: Al Jazeera is claiming from "journalist sources" that there is a disagreement between government leadership and the military establishment on how to handle protesters. (That is in line with EA's analysis this morning --- see separate entry.)

1145 GMT: Screenshot of crowd gathering in Tahrir Square in Cairo:

1135 GMT: Latest developments....

Reports of growing demonstration in Tahrir Square in Cairo. One observer comments, "The sound of the chanting is deafening. The pictures are amazing." There are reports that protesters and some army officers are holding aloft the Egyptian flag.

A participant in Cairo says he has been "joined by thousands in Mohandesin and headed to Dokki trying 2 reach Tahrir".

Meanwhile, Saudi King Abdullah has issued a statement in support of President Mubarak, condemning efforts to "destabilise" Egypt.

1100 GMT: The BBC is reporting an explosion in a state security building in Rafah with a number of casualties.

 

1040 GMT: The Egyptian Government has officially resigned.

1035 GMT: Hospital sources say 30 bodies were taken to El Damardash hospital in central Cairo overnight, including two children.

Suez steel workers are going on strike until President Mubarak resigns.

1020 GMT: From Al Jazeera reporter, "Driving across Cairo not seen a single cop! Civilians directing traffic at some intersections as even traffic police have gone."

Tanks and armoured vehicles have closed off the Nile Corniche near the State TV building. A crowd of about 200 is massed in front of them.

 

0955 GMT: Thee word from Al Jazeera crew filming at NDP headquarters in Cairo is that the complex was looted and 50 vehicles torched.

Chatter is building that the big demonstration in Tahrir Square is at 1 p.m. Al Arabiya is reporting that 8000 demonstrators are already there.

0950 GMT: First-hand in Cairo, "Army pickup truck just arrived to Tahrir square, they did let protestors hitch hike with them. Bad omen 4 Mubarak."

And an Al Jazeera reporter: "Just saw 15 bodies in single Cairo morgue. Words can't do justice 2 level anger of grieving families."

0945 GMT: Eyewitness in Suez reportS live fire from the allies of a prominent businessman, a member of the ruling NDP party and close to the Mubarak family, against protesters.

Tensions escalated on Friday in Suez when local pro-Mubarak businessmen put up posters of Mubarak's son Gamal, which were then torn down by protesters.

Al Jazeera correspondent reports 20 torched vehicles at ransacked NDP headquarters in Cairo. There are 10 tanks at Tahrir Square.

0915 GMT: Back from a break to catch up with the latest....

Al Jazeera reports 53 dead on Friday, with 15 in the morgue at Suez.

Many police records are reported destroyed in fires that swept through stations on Friday night.

People on ground report that Internet is back up. Tahrir Squire in Cairo is "burned out", with tanks and armored vehicles guarding the streets leading there.

Reports come in of a "small clash" this morning off Tahrir. The Army came between police and protesters with their hands up.

In Alexandria, at least 2,000 protesters have gathered shouting "Down with the regime."

0830 GMT: Mobile phone services have been partially restored, with two Cairo operators back in service.

 

Another eyewitness in Cairo: "Just back from Tahrir, spirit is defiant, protests still going on."

0824 GMT: The office of Saudi Airlines in Cairo was burnt out yesterday.

0820 GMT: Al Jazeera reports 23 bodies at a morgue in Alexandria, some with faces crushed and with bullet wounds.

0815 GMT: An eyewitness in Cairo, "So in general everything around here is quiet. There is healthy traffic but less than your average Saturday. There is ZERO police presence, and saw two army vehicles on the street, they're just sitting there."

0800 GMT: Reports from BBC and Reuters that "several hundred" protesters have gathered in Cairo this morning, shouting, "Down with Mubarak!".

Reuters says gunshots have been fired by police, but it is unclear whether this was live ammunition or rubber bullets.

0740 GMT: Parvez Sharma brings first-hand information from his friend Fouad Hani:

After about six hours of trying I get him on the phone.

As always here are his primary bullet points unfiltered in his voice from a brief phone conversation (and yes, he has been dodging very real bullets today):

  • My beloved city is on fire. My country is on fire. But each one of us on the streets is also on fire

  • I am exhausted. Mobinil is down. So is Vodaphone. I have no idea what is happening beyond what I have seen myself. Facebook and Twitter seem like a joke right now

  • I live in Mohandaseen and decided not to go the big Mostafa Mahmood mosque near my house, because I know that “they” would be there. I went to pray at a smaller mosque. It was beautiful to pray. I had tears

  • But as soon as we stepped out they pelted us with tear gas and with tear gas canisters. We threw them back. But my hand got burnt

  • They tried to separate all of us as we walked towards Tahrir square

  • Police were throwing rocks at us

  • There are bruises and bumps all over my body

  • I saw two bodies on the ground in Tahrir. Like an animal I just kept on walking past them

  • We threw Molotov cocktails at the police

  • Is there a curfew Parvez? Really? I had no idea—it certainly did not look like a curfew when I was just walking home

  • Has Obama said anything? I don’t expect much from him anyway, this Mubarak is his “puppy”

  • Mubarak should go and share a room with that asshole Ben Ali in his Jiddah hotel! We were chanting that in Tahrir.

  • This is a joke. Btw can Obama find a working fucking phone in this country? I guess Mubarak’s phone is working rt?

  • Pray for us.

0730 GMT: A repeat of yesterday's Inside Story, featured on our Live Feed from Al Jazeera, is considering the situation in Egypt. Jane Dutton is speaking to guests in Cairo about the rising of youth.

0715 GMT: Thanks to Josh Shahryar for handling the overnight updates in our Friday LiveBlog.

With a relative lull in developments after the uprising yesterday, checked only by the entry of the military into the cities of Egypt, we have posted a snap analysis, "The Army Allows Mubarak A Moment to Defy the Burning".

The Yemeni President, Ali Abullah Saleh, who is facing unprecedented and growing demonstrations calling for his resignation, has asked the Emir of Qatar to curb the broadcasts of Al Jazeera. Saleh said the channel's approach "serves the goals of Zionism, and terrorist groups from al Qaeda and the enemies of the Arab nation in general, and who have been trying to tear apart the nation and create fissures in its ranks to rob their resources and threaten the existence of future generations". 

Meanwhile....

There were serious developments yesterday in Tunis, where police overran a protesters' camp outside the offices of Prime Mohamed Ghannouchi. We noted in Friday updates, from the eyewitness report of two German journalists, how the security force used tear gas and dogs to break up the compound. Later today, we will have a special picture feature on the events and we will be watching for further events.

Back on Egypt, Brian Whitaker is looking at the wider perspective for the President: "The US is focusing more on the post-Mubarak situation than on trying to save him. It is trying to engineer (and manipulate) a smooth transfer of power."

But it is the Daily Telegraph of London that takes the award for sensational pretend anlaysis, using a single WikiLeaks document to construct the fantastic "America's Secret Backing for Rebel Leaders Behind Uprising".

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