Region | Egypt

Cairo braces for another day of protests

Unrest in Egypt will top the agenda at a meeting of EU foreign ministers

  • Gulf News Report with input from agencies
  • live coveragePublished: 17:31 February 8, 2011

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (left) speaking with his new Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq
  • Image Credit: AFP
  • An image grab taken from Egyptian state television Al Masriya shows Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (left) speaking with his new Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq in Cairo.
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European Union officials said on Sunday the unrest in Egypt will top the agenda at a meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday in Brussels, as European countries advised their nationals to leave the region.

The Dutch Foreign Ministry urged its citizens to "seriously consider leaving," while Switzerland advised its own to leave until further notice.

Turkey's Dogan news agency reported on Sunday that the government is evacuating about 750 nationals on three planes that are slated to arrive later in the evening.

Belgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Patrick Deboeck said ambassadors in Cairo assessed "the state of play" at a meeting Sunday and EU nations are not planning evacuations.

He added that so far there have been no incidents involving EU citizens in Egypt.

The situation in Egypt will figure prominently when European Union ministers meet Monday, said Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

The EU has traditionally had close relations with Egypt as part of its partnerships with countries on the eastern and southern rims of the Mediterranean.

But in what appeared to be an effort to distance the bloc from Mubarak's regime, EU President Herman Van Rompuy said on Saturday the bloc was "deeply troubled" by the spiral of violence. He urged Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak to end the crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators and release all political prisoners.

Van Rompuy's statement echoed similar comments on Friday by US President Barack Obama that urged restraint.

Abbas Al Lawati writes: Al Arabiya says curfew has been extended. Will start at 3pm. This makes my job so difficult!!!

It appears that the police, having been off the streets for most of Sunday, have now returned. There had been reports earlier that they would resume patrols on Monday, but Egypt's state news agency and Al Arabiya TV now say that deployment has already happened.

Egyptian state TV just showed footage of Hosni Mubarak meeting with new Vice-President Omar Sulaiman and the new Prime Minister Ahmad Shafiq. The meeting was to "set the priorities of the new government", the broadcaster reported.

Abbas Al Lawati reports: Every single protester I speak to mentions the conspiracy theory about the ‘thuggery’ being the work of police, who have disappeared to create an atmosphere of intimidation and fear.

People say: Is it a coincidence that three prisons have been breached right after the police disappeared from the streets?

People here who intend to spend the night have gathered on the grass and started small fires to keep warm. I’ve seen a number of fire hazards that could cause havoc if a fire does actually breaks out

Protesters sitting on top of tanks chanting slogans and waving flags. Soldiers are just watching.

Gulf News reporter Abbas Al Lawati reports: Helicopters continue to circle Tahrir Square as people stream in

It’s surprising how few people here know or care about Al Baradei speaking, One man said: Who? You mean Al Baradei? I don’t know.

No clear leader seems to have surfaced. Not even Al Baradei. People I speak to at the square shrug and say Al Baradei is fine ‘but only as interim president’

Essam Al Aryan and Mohammad Al Katakni of Muslim Brotherhood, who were freed on Sunday from prison are expected to speak at Tahrir Square where massive crowds are gathering.
 

Al Baradei told thousands gathered at the epicentre of anti-regime protests in Cairo on Sunday that they were "beginning a new era," amid chants for President Hosni Mubarak to stand down.

Al Baradei hailed "a new Egypt in which every Egyptian lives in freedom and dignity," his words however inaudible to most of the vast crowd gathered on Tahrir square that he addressed through a megaphone.

"We are on the right path, our strength is in our numbers," the Nobel peace laureate said. "I ask you to be patient, change is coming."

Al Baradei arrived at the square to address the country's main protest for the first time to cries of "The people want to topple the president."

"We will sacrifice our soul and our blood for the nation," the angry crowd shouted.

According to BBC correspondent, Al Baradei is on his way to Tahrir Square, where he is scheduled to address the protesters.

Egyptian television said the army had arrested 3113 of the runaways from prison.

The new Secretary of Organisation of the National Democratic Party, Maged Al Sharbini says Egypt's new cabinet will be announced in a few hours, BBC Arabic reports

Jazeera English blog is not working, for the past 15min

"WE ARE NOT LEAVING….. He is Leaving" a slogan chanted by protesters in Tahrir square at the moment, while judges, political figures, and Azhar clerks join the march according to R.N.N blog.

Al Jazeera TV reports that protesters have painted a 'Down with Mubarak' slogan in the midst of Tahrir Square.

The full quote from Mrs Clinton to Fox News, reported by Reuters: "We want to see an orderly transition so that no one fills a void, that there not be a void, that there be a well thought-out plan that will bring about a democratic participatory government."

A car drove past protesters and started shooting right in front of us, Abbas Al Lawati reports. Ambulance rushing to the scene to see if they are killed or injured.

A car drove past protesters and started shooting right in front of us, Abbas Al Lawati reports. Ambulance rushing to the scene to see if they are killed or injured.

The fighter jets are flying dangerously low to the crowd causing panic, Gulf News reporter Abbas Al Lawati reports live from Tahrir Square.

Fighter jets encircling Tahrir square breaking the sound barrier. Thousands of people cheer and clap. “Down with Mubarak” can be heard in one resounding voice.

Stock exchange loss: According to Al Watan online the Egyptian Stock exchange will still be closed on Monday, pointing the loss to be 70 billion Egyptian pounds ($12 billion) in only two trading sessions.
 

Dozens of bodies in the roads near the Abu Zaabal prison in Cairo: A security source said Sunday that there are dozens of bodies in the streets near the prison of Abu Zaabal, where a rebellion took place last night.

March with the coffins
According to BBC Arabic correspondent in Cairo Khaled Ezzelarab protesters in Tahrir Square have said they intend to carry march with the coffins of victims of the violence to the presidential palace on Monday if he does not step down.

Death toll rises. Al Jazeera reports 150 protesters killed since Friday in Egypt's demonstrations

Egyptian army ordered to use live ammunition on protesters, but reports say army will refuse the order, according to Al Jazeera.

Dan Nolan of Al Jazeera tweets: "Packing our equipment. We have been kicked out of office. Jazeera only network being shut down according to these guys #Jan25 #Egypt"

A coalition of opposition groups issue a statement asking Mohammad Al Baradei to form a transitional government. They call on the Nobel Laureate "during this transitional stage, to act in the internal and external affairs of the nation, and to form a temporary government… and to dissolve parliament and draft a new constitution which enables the Egyptian people to freely choose its representatives in parliament and elect a legitimate president." The statement was signed by the 6 April Movement, the We are all Khalid Said Movement, the National Assembly for Change and the 25 January Movement.

Al Jazeera's broadcasts via an Egyptian satellite have been halted. The Egyptian government had earlier ordered the Arabic TV channel, which has been showing blanket coverage of the protests, to shut down its operations in the country.
Thirty-four members of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood, including seven members of the leadership, walked out of prison in Egypt on Sunday after relatives of prisoners overcame the guards, a Brotherhood official said.

The relatives stormed the prison in Wadi Al Natroun, 120km northwest of Cairo, and set free several thousand of the inmates, Brotherhood office manager Mohammad Osama told Reuters. No one was hurt, he added.

"They are on their way to Cairo," he said. The seven leaders are from the Brotherhood's Guidance Council and they were arrested on Thursday night and Friday morning during preparations for the massive protests on Friday against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Osama named them as Mohammad Mursi, Essam AlErian, Mohamed AlKatatni, Sa’ad Al Hussaini, Mustafa AlGhoneimi, Muhyi Hamed and Mahmoud Abu Zeid.

Prisoners have escaped from several major prisons across Egypt since the protests on Friday, when police morale and discipline started to break down. In many parts of Egypt police have abandoned their stations.

The Muslim Brotherhood has been Egypt's largest opposition movement for decades. Its members have taken part in the last six days of protests, alongside other groups and ordinary citizens, but it has not sought to claim any leadership role.

The UAE ambassador to Egypt has called on all those who are in contact with their relatives currently in Egypt to head towards Cairo Airport in order to arrange for their return home.

Mubarak visits army centre

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak visited a military operations centre, state TV reported on Sunday as unrest spiralled in the country.

State television showed Mubarak meeting newly appointed Vice President Omar Sulaiman, Defence Minister Mohammad Hussain Tantawi, Chief of Staff Sami Al Anan and other commanders.

The official state news agency said Mubarak was reviewing the armed forces headquarters in charge of security operations.

Rafah crossing closed

Also on Sunday, the Rafah crossing between southern Gaza and Egypt was closed a Palestinian official said, adding that Egyptian officials had left the border following the spiralling political unrest.

Razi Hamad, head of the crossing within Gaza's Hamas government, said the border would most likely be shut for "several days" while admitting that it would depend on developments in Egypt, where violent protests have entered their sixth day.

He said the Egyptian forces had apparently left their post at some point on Friday or Saturday when the crossing is closed for the weekend, as a wave of massive anti-government protests swept through the country.

Angry revolt in central Egypt

In central Egypt, crowds of protesters began massing for a sixth day of angry revolt against the government on Sunday, with over 100 already dead in protests demanding the veteran president quit.

Around 200 civilians spent the night on the central Tahrir square, the epicentre of protests since Tuesday, surrounded by army tanks although troops took no action against those breaking a night-time curfew.

More people began arriving on the square early Sunday, normally the start of the working week in Cairo, with a man waving an Egyptian flag as a military helicopter circled overhead.

Thousands escape from Egypt prison

Meanwhile, thousands of prisoners escaped from the Wadi Natrun facility, north of Cairo, a security official said on Sunday, as anti-government riots entered their sixth day.

Inmates overwhelmed guards during the night, breaking out of the facility which holds many Islamist political prisoners, and spilling out into nearby towns and villages, as nationwide riots demanding the end of the regime gave way to looting.

Looting rampant

Groups of club-carrying vigilantes slowly left the streets that they had been protecting from rampant looting overnight amid growing insecurity as the Arab world's most populous nation faced an uncertain future.

Youths handed over to the army those they suspected of looting, with the police that has been fighting running battles with stone-throwing protesters in recent days hardly visible.

Many petrol stations are now running out of fuel, motorists said, and many bank cash machines have either been looted or are no longer working. Egyptian banks and the stock exchange have been ordered closed on Sunday.

Embattled President Hosni Mubarak on Saturday named military intelligence chief Omar Sulaiman as his first-ever vice president and also a new premier, Ahmad Shafiq, but protesters dismissed the moves as too little, too late.

Both men are stalwarts of Egypt's all-powerful military establishment.

Sulaiman, 75, has spearheaded years of Egyptian efforts to clinch an elusive Palestinian-Israeli peace deal and tried so far in vain to mediate an inter-Palestinian reconciliation.

Shafiq, 69, is respected by the Egyptian elite, even among the opposition, and has often been mooted as a potential successor to Mubarak.

Fresh riots on Saturday, the fifth day of the revolt, left 22 people dead in the town of Beni Sueif, south of Cairo, where protesters tried to burn down a police station, witnesses and a security source said.

Another three protesters died in Cairo and three police were killed in the Sinai town of Rafah, raising to at least 102 the number of people killed since the unrest erupted on Tuesday, including 33 on Saturday, according to medics.

Mohammad Al Baradei, the Nobel laureate and former UN chief nuclear inspector who has emerged as a dissident leader in his homeland, said Mubarak's new political appointments were insufficient.

"I tell President Mubarak and his regime to leave Egypt as soon as possible. It will be better for Egypt and for you," he said in remarks to Al Jazeera television.

Egyptians were watching to see if widely hated Interior Minister Habib Al Adly, in office since 1997 and responsible for the security apparatus, will keep his job.

On Saturday evening, the army stood back as protesters fought running battles with police in front of the interior ministry.

Hundreds of demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails at police near the downtown heart of the protests, and policemen responded with live rounds of gunfire, witnesses said. Medics said three people were killed.

As Mubarak stood his ground, influential Arab cleric Yusuf Al Qaradawi called on him to quit, in an interview with Al Jazeera.

"Leave Mubarak. Have pity on the people and get lost before the destruction spreads in Egypt," said the Egyptian-born president of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, who called the president "deaf, dumb and blind."

And the banned Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's best-organised opposition group, called for a peaceful transfer of power through a transitional cabinet.

The United States said Saturday that Mubarak should carry out "real reform" beyond a government reshuffle, as the US president met top aides on the crisis and anti-Mubarak protests spread to US cities.

President Barack Obama gathered his national security team at the White House for a session lasting just over an hour on latest developments in Egypt.

The US president "reiterated our focus on opposing violence and calling for restraint; supporting universal rights; and supporting concrete steps that advance political reform within Egypt," a White House statement said.

With tanks taking up positions around the Cairo Museum to protect the priceless artefacts inside, concern also grew for foreign tourists stranded in the land of the Pharaohs, with around 500 Japanese stranded at Cairo airport after their EgyptAir flights were cancelled.

Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara expressed his concern at a meeting with ambassador Walid Mahmoud Abdelnasser in Tokyo and called on Egypt to "establish a stable government through dialogue and solve the problem in a peaceful manner."

Many countries have warned against all but essential travel to Egypt.

With input from agencies

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