Egyptian demonstrators chant slogans in front of army tanks stationed near the National Museum in downtown Cairo on January 29, 2011, President Hosni Mubarak addressed the nation overnight for the first time since deadly protests erupted against his regime Image Credit: AFP

Cairo: More than 100 people have been killed during anti-government protests that have swept Egypt, according to a Reuters tally of reports from medical sources, hospitals and witnesses.

There was no official figure, and the real figure may be very different, given the confusion on the streets.

On Saturday in Beni Suef, south of Cairo, police shot dead 17 people trying to attack two police stations and eight people were killed during protests.

Eight others were killed in clashes when prisoners tried to escape from Abu Zaabal prison in Cairo.

Some 68 deaths were reported killed in Cairo, Suez and Alexandria during Friday's protests. Before then, security sources had said at least six people, including a police officer, had been killed since the protests started on Tuesday.

On Saturday, medical sources told Reuters around 2,000 people had been wounded throughout the country, however with more protests erupting, that number was almost certain to rise. The sources were unable to specify whether they were police or protesters.

Obama huddled on Saturday for an hour with his national security team on the crisis in Egypt, a linchpin of US Middle East strategy. Afterward, the White House said its focus remained on "calling for restraint, supporting universal rights and supporting concrete steps that advance political reform."

The US administration was caught off guard by the political upheaval that has rocked the Middle East in recent days, from Egypt to Tunisia to Lebanon to Yemen.

2.02, Egypt state TV shows arrest of 'thugs': Egypt state TV airing footage of a group of men arrested on TV, calling them thugs. The men are lined up against the wall featuring blank expressions. One man is seen crying.

People left to protect themselves: With the lack of police presence and army deployed to major landmarks, the people are left to protect themselves, a young Egyptian, Amr Radwan, tells Al Jazeera. "We have to protect our own families and neighborhoods. We have set up our own roadblocks and are taking matters into our own hands.

1.15, Egypt moves to secure antiquities from looters: Would-be looters broke into Cairo's famed Egyptian Museum, ripping the heads off two mummies and damaging about 10 small artifacts before being caught and detained by army soldiers, Egypt's antiquities chief said Saturday.

Zahi Hawass said the vandals did not manage to steal any of the museum's antiquities, and that the prized collection was now safe and under military guard. With mass anti-government protests still roiling the country and unleashing chaos on the streets, fears that looters could target other ancient treasures at sites across the country prompted the military to dispatch armored personnel carriers and troops to the Pyramids of Giza, the temple city of Luxor and other key archaeological monuments.

Hawass said now that the Egyptian Museum's collection is secure from thieves, the greatest threat to the collection inside is posed by the torched ruling party headquarters building next door. "What scares me is that if this building is destroyed, it will fall over the museum," Hawass said as he watched fire trucks spray water on the still smoldering NDP headquarters.

The museum, which is home to the gold mask of King Tutankhamun that draws millions of tourists a year, also houses thousands of artifacts spanning the full sweep of Egypt's rich pharaonic history. "The significance of the collection of the Cairo museum cannot be understated," said Thomas Campbell, the director of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art by telephone. "It is the great repository of Egyptian art. It is the treasure chest, the finest sculptures and treasures from literally 4,000 years of history. If it is damaged through looting or fire, it would be a loss to all humankind," he said.

The museum is located near some of the most intense of the mass anti-government protests sweeping the capital, and Egyptian army commandoes secured the building and its grounds early Saturday morning. Before the army arrived, young Egyptians – some armed with truncheons grabbed off the police – created a human chain at the museum's front gate to prevent looters from making off with any of its priceless artifacts. "They managed to stop them," Hawass said. He added that the would-be looters only vandalized two mummies, ripping their heads off. They also cleared out the museum gift shop. The prized King Tutankhamun exhibit had not been damaged and was safe, he said. An Associated Press Television News crew that was allowed into the museum saw two vandalized mummies and at least 10 small artifacts that had been taken out of their glass cases and damaged.

Egypt unrest causes fuel shortage in Gaza Strip: Gaza Strip residents flocked to petrol stations on Saturday after clashes in neighbouring Egypt hampered smugglers ferrying fuel supplies through tunnels that run under the border into the enclave, witnesses said. Merchants and tunnellers said the pace of smuggling of fuel and other materials had dropped in recent days and reached its lowest level on Saturday as clashes between Egyptian residents of north Sinai and security forces intensified.

Fearing that makeshift fuel pipes that run through the smuggling tunnels would soon dry up completely, Gaza car owners filled their tanks to the brim and also took extra cans to stock up with additional supplies. "Move now and fill your car," read a mobile phone text message that Gazans circulated. A statement issued by Hamas officials tried to calm fears by saying that there was no shortage of any goods in the coastal strip but it did not deter drivers from filling their cars. Palestinians get most of their fuel from Egypt through a network of underground tunnels.

Sounds of gunfire and explosions on the Egyptian side of the border could be heard across the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah where Hamas security forces have been placed on high alert to prevent any possible breach of the border fence. A Hamas interior ministry spokesman said the border was "secure and there were no violations" and the group added later that Egypt told them it would close Rafah border crossing on Sunday, possibly for a number of days

Gunfire head: Gunfire has been heard coming from the direction of the interior ministry in Cairo during a confrontation between guards and protesters. A building close to the headquarters of the ruling National Democratic Party is ablaze in central Cairo, and there are mounting concerns that the flames could spread to the nearby Egyptian Museum, which houses some of the country's most important cultural and historical artefacts.

US media versus Jazeera: Alex Pareene, political writer for Salon magazine writes about US media coverage on Egypt. All three of the major US cable news networks are prefacing breaking news on their chyrons with the words "Al-Jazeera reports." Fox, CNN and MSNBC are all acquitting themselves better than they did the day Tunisia's government collapsed. All of them have reporters in Cairo, and are airing footage of the demonstrations on the streets. But none of them are reporting on the situation as compellingly as Al Jazeera English, which has reporters across the country. And if you're in the United States, you can probably only see Al Jazeera English online. If you're watching Al Jazeera, you're seeing uninterrupted live video of the demonstrations, along with reporting from people actually on the scene, and not "analysis" from people in a studio. The cops were threatening to knock down the door of one of its reporters minutes ago. Fox has moved on to anchor babies. CNN reports that the ruling party building is on fire, but Al Jazeera is showing the fire live.
CNN, to its credit, is using coverage from the grown-ups at CNN International. MSNBC had Dan Senor (council on foreign relations) reporting from Davos. Yes, liberal MSNBC was getting live analysis from a neoconservative former spokesperson for the occupying U.S. government in Iraq. Fox just had former U.N. Ambassador and ultra-hawk John Bolton on to warn us about the Muslim Brotherhood. Al Jazeera had an opposition party leader on the phone.
A bit earlier, Al Jazeera reported on what could be live ammunition fired by police outside the heavily guarded radio and television building. And Fox went live to Chicago, where two men tried to rob a Brink's truck.

00.42: Nicholas Pengelley from Toronto, Canada writes: "Remember 1989, when America, the vaunted Voice of Freedom, spoke loudly in support of the people who rose in Berlin, Prague, Warsaw and Budapest to bring down the tyrants who ruled over them. Where is that voice now, in support of the people of Egypt?"

Protesters have set fire to the Egyptian Tax Authority headquarters, an office tower in central Cairo near the interior ministry and other government buildings, Reuters reports, citing witnesses. Smoke can be seen billowing from the building and the flames are visible from some distance away, witnesses say. There has also been gunfire reported in the area.

00.35: Obama reiterates call for restraint in Egypt

US President Barak Obama is calling for restraint in Egypt and renewing his support for universal rights and concrete steps that lead to political reform. Obama met with national security advisers for an hour Saturday afternoon to review the fast changing developments in Egypt. The White House offered no reaction from the president to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's decision to name a long-time confidant as vice president. Participants in the meeting with the president included Vice President Joe Biden, national security adviser Tom Donilon, chief of staff William Daley, press secretary Robert Gibbs and senior adviser David Plouffe. The meeting came after a broader session in the morning that included Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and CIA director Leon Panetta. “He [Obama] reiterated our focus on opposing violence and calling for restraint; supporting universal rights, and supporting concrete steps that advance political reform within Egypt,” the White House said in a statement released after the meeting. 

00.25: Muslim Brotherhood: Mubarak must quit or reform

Protests that have rocked Egypt will not abate until President Hosni Mubarak steps down or announces immediate reforms, a lawyer representing the Islamist opposition group Muslim Brotherhood told Reuters on Saturday. Protests broke out across Egypt on Saturday, the fifth day of nationwide demonstrations against Mubarak's 30-year-rule. The Brotherhood has mostly stayed in the background, although several of its senior officials have been detained. Mubarak, whose government rules with emergency law, ordered troops and tanks into cities on Friday night in an attempt to quell the demonstrations.

"(People) have legitimate demands that can't be quelled by the army or security. The demands have to be met," Abdul Maksoud said. "Had the government resigned on Tuesday, things would have calmed down but now demands are increasing," he said. "Core political reforms have to be made to make people feel these is seriousness about those reforms, such as scrapping the emergency law and dissolving parliament."

00.20: Mubarak legitimately elected, says NDP

The ruling National Democratic Party's Maged Boutros tells the BBC that if the protests get any worse, the rule of law will break down. "People have to wait and be patriotic, and not allow mobs and looters to dominate the streets," Boutros tells BBC News. He says Mr Mubarak was legitimately elected, and people are using an illegitimate way of expressing their views by violence, warning against what he describes as "mob rule".

00.14: Call on US to stop supporting Mubarak

Johan Baumeister from Minneapolis, USA, writes: "As an American citizen, I am deeply ashamed of my government's lukewarm response to the protests in Egypt. President Obama and Vice-President Biden have an opportunity to influence the outcome in favour of a more democratic Egypt. Thus far, they have squandered that chance. I urge all my fellow Americans to contact their senators, representatives, and the White House. It is time to call on Washington to stop supporting tyrants and dictators. It is time for out vaunted American gospel of democracy to be more than empty words and hollow gestures. It is time for a free world, and a Free Egypt!"

23.50: Engage in a process of transformation: Europe

France, the UK and Germany have called on Mubarak to "engage in a process of transformation". In a joint statement, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and UK Prime Minister David Cameron have urged Egypt's authorities to avoid at all costs the use of violence against civilians.

"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," they say. "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."

Twelve reported dead in fighting between demonstrators and police in Beni Suef, 100km south of Cairo, AFP reports, citing security officials.

Al Jazeera reporter Ayman Mohyeldin reports desolate Cairo streets and roaming bands of thuggish-looking men who cannot be identified as plainclothes police or civilians. He also says many fewer people are in the streets than earlier in the evening.US filmmaker

23.45: Moore tweets

Michael Moore tweets: "Comedy doesn't get better than this: Mubarak appoints as vp man who ran OUR secret kidnapping/rendition prgm in Egypt (source: Jane Mayer)"

23.35: Call for general strike

Alaa Abd El Fattah tweets: "And here is a call for general strike tomorrow to defend the revolution #Jan25

23.15: Looting engulfs Cairo, other Egyptian cities

Cairo residents boarded up homes and set up neighbourhood watches armed with guns, clubs and knives Saturday as looting engulfed the capital, despite the deployment of army troops to restore order. Residents reported gangs of youths, some on motorbikes, roaming the streets, looting supermarkets, shopping malls and shops. Some of the gangs made it to affluent residential areas in the suburbs, breaking into luxury homes and apartments. The crack of gunfire could be heard in the city center as well as outlying districts.

The situation had spiraled far enough out of control by dusk Saturday that the army was deploying reinforcements across the city to restore order and prevent looting, state TV said. The looting, which has spread despite a 4pm to 8am curfew, has prompted residents in some neighbourhoods, including the upscale Zamalek district in central Cairo, to set up vigilante groups to protect private property. Outside some apartment blocks, guards armed with machine guns had taken up posts.

In the well-heeled Maadi neighborhood in south Cairo, neighborhood mosques called on young men over loudspeakers to come down to the entrances of building and homes to ward off looters. Naglaa Mahmoud, a 37-year-old Maadi resident, said thugs were breaking cars and threatening to get into homes. She said even the ambulance service in the neighborhood had abandoned their offices and accused the regime of planning the chaos by pulling out all of its police forces. “All this seems to be prearranged. They are punishing us for asking for this change,” she said. “What a shame he [Mubarak] doesn’t care for the people or anything.”

The Defence Ministry appealed to young Egyptians to stand up to looters. Ministry spokesman Esmail Othman added that the armed forces will deal with them, and is committed to safeguarding Egypt. Othman also warned against violating the curfew, saying the military will deal firmly with those caught breaking the curfew.

22.40: Chaotic scenes reported from Cairo Airport

Chaotic scenes are reported at Cairo Airport, where many travellers are stuck because of the demonstrations. A Spanish doctor, Jose Maria Abadaal, has been trying to leave for Madrid for the past 24 hours. "We are totally confined here because we cannot go either inside the boarding area or outside to the hotels," he told the BBC. "We don't really know what's going to happen tomorrow. They are cancelling many flights."

22.27: Analyst on options in front of Mubarak

"Al Baradei is right, it’s become clear from protests that Mubarak needs to step down. The question is if he steps down, what happens next? It’s not clear. A National Salvation government? But who appoints this government? Any future government has to be representative of all walks of life, Islamists, Liberals, socialists. What will happen if he steps down. Will people want him to leave?" Shadi Hamid, Director or Research at Brooking Centre Doha.

22.09: US holds meeting on Egypt developments

Reuters news agency reports that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden and other top US officials have held a two-hour White House meeting on the situation in Egypt. President Barack Obama is to receive an update on the crisis from his national security staff later on Saturday, the White House says

21.55: Sniper on roof of Egypt interior ministry building

Witnesses say there are snipers on the roof of Egypt's interior ministry building, and they have been firing live rounds at anybody who tries to approach the building, the BBC Arabic's Ranya Sabri reports from Cairo.

Meanwhile, key opposition figure Mohammad Al Baradei says in speech: "We are seeking a change of regime. President Mubarak should step down. We should head towards a democratic state through a new government and free democratic elections...The whole world should realize that the Egyptians are not going home until their demands are realized...We are talking about taking down the Pharaonic dictatorship. Change is coming no doubt. Egyptian people will hand down their own policies. Outside forces cannot determine our future. We should get rid of military rule it is the same thing, going back to square one. We should move to civil rule. Military solution is not acceptable. I would like to send a message to the youth. I salute them. I call them to abide by the law and defend public property. The Egyptian army should take the side of the people and not the tyrants."

21.40: Egypt protest held in Washington DC

Al Jazeera English reporter Nick Spicer in Washington DC says that protesters in front of the Egyptian embassy are calling for Mubarak to resign and an end to US support for the Mubark government.

21.30: Hamas calls it Egypt's domestic matter

Hamas Official Mahmoud Zahar says he will not comment on the protests and that its a domestic Egyptian matter. He fears that Gaza will become even more isolated during these times. Shadi Hamid, Director of Research in Brookings Institution in Doha, says that any elected government in Egypt will be unfavorable to Israel and the US.

"Israel is keeping quiet because they are against whats going on. As for Hamas, they don't want to give the idea that Islamists are getting excited about events, so its better to keep quiet," he said.

21.15: US says Mubarak can't just 'shuffle the deck'

The United States told Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Saturday it was not enough to simply “shuffle the deck” with a shake-up of his government and pressed him to make good on his promise of genuine reform.

As thousands of angry Egyptian protesters defied a curfew, Washington kept up pressure for Mubarak to heed President Barack Obama's appeals for change and take seriously a White House threat to review massive US aid if he failed to do so.

The Obama administration is performing a delicate balancing act, trying to avoid abandoning Mubarak – an important US strategic ally of 30 years – while supporting protesters who seek broader political rights and also demand his removal. But Washington has limited options to influence the situation.

“The Egyptian government can't reshuffle the deck and then stand pat,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in a message on Twitter after Mubarak fired his government. "President Mubarak's words pledging reform must be followed by action," he added, echoing Obama's call on Friday for Mubarak to embrace a new political dynamic. Crowley's comments came before Mubarak picked his intelligence chief and confidante, Omar Sulaiman, as vice president, a post Mubarak has never been filled in 30 years of his rule. 

21.10: No plan for early election in Egypt, parliament speaker says

Egypt has no plans for early elections, the speaker of parliament said on Saturday, Al Arabiya television reported. The presidential election is due in September. As violence raged for the fifth day in Egypt, President Hosni Mubarak went into crisis talks with officials late in the afternoon, after which news broke that army career man and Mubarak confidante General Omar Sulaiman had been sworn in as his deputy. Sulaiman, 75, is chief of military intelligence and a well-known player on the world scene. He has spearheaded years of Egyptian efforts to encourage an eventual Israeli-Palestinian peace deal and of mediating internal Palestinian disputes. The government resigned on Saturday, a step Mubarak promised overnight. Shortly after Sulaiman was sworn in, Mubarak tapped the current aviation minister, Ahmad Shafiq, to form a new government. Shafiq is respected by the Egyptian elite, even among the opposition, and has often been mooted as a potential successor to Mubarak. 

21.05: Reports of private property being seized

As protesters continue to defy curfew, a bystander in Cairo tells Al Jazeera that there are no police left in the capital. Formerly omnipresent traffic police are nowhere to be found. Reports suggest that private property is being seized in locations throughout Egypt.

21.02: UAE sets up helpline for Emiratis in Egypt

The UAE Foreign Ministry is closely following the conditions of Emirati citizens in Egypt through its Operations Department an in coordination with the UAE Embassy in Cairo, WAM reported.

Ambassador Hamad Al Shamsi, Director of the Operations Department, said the ministry has set up an operation room working round the clock to assess Emirati citizens and provide them with all the requirements they need. He urged Emiratis in Egypt to take extra caution and avoid the places of congregation, as well as to contact the Embassy at the following numbers: 

  • 0020237766101
  • 0020237766102
  • 0020237766103

20.38: Dozens of Israelis flee Egypt on emergency flight 

Israel's national airline has whisked some 200 Israelis, including families of Israeli diplomats, out of Egypt on board an emergency flight to escape the chaos engulfing the Arab country.

An Israeli official said Saturday's flight included dozens of tourists as well as diplomat's families. The official said Israeli diplomats would remain in Egypt for the time being. He spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government regulations.

A Cairo airport official confirmed that El Al arranged the special flight. El Al does not usually fly on the Jewish sabbath to appease observant Jewish passengers who do not travel on the day of rest. El Al refused to comment.

Tanks and APCs entering Rihab city

Video posted on Youtube shows army tanks and APCs entering Rihab city, north of Cairo, Saturday after looting was reported there 

Amr Moussa on Egypt protest

Arab League chief Amr Moussa tells BBC Arabic: "[All] Arab young people, not just the Egyptians, have feelings of frustration and anger because of the [economic and political] situation." He said he hadn't spoken to Mr Mubarak, but that the president knew that small reforms would not be enough. "I think that the Egyptian people of all factions and religions sent a strong message that won't be lost to anyone," he added.

20.17: Reports of gun fire in Cairo's Mahdi

Reports emerge of gun fire in the affluent Cairo neighbourhood of Mahdi. Local men are going into the street with clubs and chains to prevent looting. Residents are trying to protect the entrance to the neighbourhood with blockades.

Egyptian Nobel-laureate Mohamed Al Baradei tells the BBC's Jeremy Bowen: “The Egyptian people have revolted against President Mubarak. This is the first demonstration of this number. He either didn't get the message or he's pretending not to have heard. Everybody is of the same mind: he needs to go.”

20.04: Ahmed Shafiq to be prime minister of Egypt

Egypt's president picked on Saturday a former air force commander and aviation minister, Ahmad Shafiq, as the next prime minister, ensuring men with military links are in the top three political jobs.

Shafiq’s appointment followed announcement earlier on Saturday that Omar Sulaiman, the intelligence chief with military experience, would be vice president and in prime position for the top job if Mubarak does not run in September.

Mubarak, 82, was also a former air force chief. The move followed days of unprecedented protests that have shaken the country to its core.

Here are some facts about Shafiq.

* Ahmed Shafiq, a close associate of President Hosni Mubarak, had been minister of civil aviation since 2002.

* A former fighter pilot, Shafiq served as commander of the Egyptian air force between 1996 to 2002, a post Mubarak himself held before he became vice president of Egypt under former President Anwar Sadat.

* As minister of civil aviation, Shafiq has won a reputation for efficiency and administrative competence. He has supervised a successful modernisation programme at the state airline EgyptAir and improvements to the country's airports.

20.03: Mubarak's sons arrive in London

 Hosni Mubarak's two sons, Alaa and Gamal, have arrived in London, the BBC Arabic Service has confirmed

19.44: Intelligence chief sworn in as vice president

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who has not picked a vice president since his took office in 1981, appointed his intelligence chief and confidante Omar Sulaiman to the post, the official news agency said on Saturday.

The vice president is the post that Mubarark occupied before he was appointed president

19.17: Three killed, dozens wounded 

At least three people were killed during anti-regime protests in downtown Cairo on Saturday, medics at a mobile hospital told AFP as they tended to dozens of the wounded.

19.10: British flight returns due to unrest

A British Midland International flight to Cairo has returned to London after turning back in mid-flight, the company said on Saturday.

"Due to the rapidly changing situation in Egypt, British Midland International Flight BD771 which was en route to Cairo is returning to London Heathrow," a spokesperson said.

The plane was carrying 64 passengers and six crew members. 

19.02: At least one killed in police firing in Cairo

Police have opened fire on a massive crowd of protesters in downtown Cairo, killing at least one demonstrator.

Thousands of protesters are trying to storm the Interior Ministry located in the heart of the city.

At least one body was seen being carried out on the shoulders of protesters Saturday. Many people were wounded as well.

It was not immediately clear whether the riot police were shooting live ammunition or rubber bullets.

Massive anti-government demonstrations are sweeping through downtown Cairo, defying a government curfew and demanding the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.

18.32: Egypt businessman quits Mubarak party

Wealthy Egyptian businessman Ahmed Ezz, a close confidante of the president's son and one of the targets for protester criticism, has resigned from ruling party, state television reported. 

Protesters ransacked and burned one of his company's main offices in Mohandiseen, an area of Cairo. On Saturday, some protesters held up posters with a cross marked over the face of Ezz, who is chairman of Ezz Steel 

18.19: Looters destroy mummies in Museum

Looters broke into the Egyptian Museum during anti-government protests late on Friday and destroyed two Pharaonic mummies, Egypt's top archaeologist told state television.

The museum in central Cairo, which has the world's biggest collection of Pharaonic antiquities, is adjacent to the headquarters of the ruling National Democratic Party that protesters had earlier set ablaze. Flames were seen still pouring out of the party headquarters early on Saturday.

"I felt deeply sorry today when I came this morning to the Egyptian Museum and found that some had tried to raid the museum by force last night," Zahi Hawass, chairman of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said on Saturday.

"Egyptian citizens tried to prevent them and were joined by the tourism police, but some (looters) managed to enter from above and they destroyed two of the mummies," he said.

He added looters had also ransacked the ticket office.

The two-storey museum, built in 1902, houses tens of thousands of objects in its galleries and storerooms, including most of the King Tutankhamen collection.

17.56: Massive demonstration swells in downtown Cairo

A massive crowd of tens of thousands calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak was gathering in the streets and squares of downtown Cairo Saturday afternoon, making clear they reject promises of reform and a new government offered by the embattled leader trying to hang on to power.

Dozens of tanks and armored personnel carriers were fanned out across the city of 18 million, guarding key government building a day after large, violent confrontations emboldened the movement demanding a change of leadership. There was rampant looting across the sprawling city of 18 million and a growing feeling of fear and insecurity.

In the city's main Tahrir Square, at the center of Saturday's massive demonstration, there was only a light military presence - a few tanks - and soldiers are not intervening. Few police were seen in the crowds and the protest began peacefully but then police opened fire on some people in the crowd near the Interior Ministry and a number of them were wounded by gunshots. It was not clear whether they used rubber bullets or live ammunition.

One army captain joined the demonstrators, who hoisted him on their shoulders while chanting slogans against Mubarak. The officer ripped a picture of the president.

17.22: Brotherhood for peaceful transfer of power

Egypt's main opposition movement, the banned Muslim Brotherhood, called on Saturday for a peaceful transfer of power via a transition cabinet as anti-regime protests shook the country for a fifth day.

15.51: Curfew extended

A curfew in the cities of Cairo, Alexandria and Suez has been extended to start from 4pm and last until 8am, Egyptian state television reported on Saturday amid ongoing anti-government riots.

Earlier, Egypt's army warned the people on Saturday to obey the curfew and to refrain from congregating in public places, according to a statement carried by the official MENA news agency.

The armed forces urged "the great people of Egypt... to refrain from congregating in main roads or public squares, and to obey a curfew" which had been declared between 6pm and 7am. "Legal measures will be taken against those in violation," the statement said.

EU calls for end to violence

European Union head Herman Van Rompuy called on Saturday for an end to violence and bloodshed in Egypt. "I am deeply troubled by the spiral of violence leading to a situation which makes dialogue even more difficult," the EU president said in a statement.

"The respect for fundamental human rights, such as the freedom of expression, the right to communicate, and the right of free assembly, as well as social inclusion are constituent elements of democracy which the Egyptian people, and in particular the young, are striving for."
Al Baradei calls on Mubarak to resign

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak "must go," top activist Mohammad Al Baradei told France 24 television on Saturday from Cairo, vowing that protests against his rule would intensify.

"President Mubarak did not understand the message of the Egyptian people," Al Baradei said. "His speech was totally disappointing. The protests will continue with even more intensity until the Mubarak regime falls."

Reports said Al Baradei was drenched by a water cannon and prevented by police from leaving a mosque in which he took shelter. In Saturday's television interview, the Nobel laureate skirted questions about reports that he had been placed under house arrest but inferred these were not true.

Amnesty: Egypt Cabinet firing won't quell protests

The head of Amnesty International says Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's decision to fire his Cabinet won't quell the anti-government protests that have shaken the country for five days.

Shetty told The Associated Press on Saturday that "people are very clearly saying they want very fundamental change, constitutional change." He says the human rights group has staff in Cairo and traveling around the country even as the Egyptian government seeks to prevent media organizations and observers from reporting on the protests. Shetty says the closing down of peaceful avenues of protest and expression will backfire on the government and is one the reasons why demonstrations have turned violent.

Egypt unrest rattles tourists

Foreign tourists and Egyptians have begun flocking to Cairo's main airport, scrambling to find flights out of the country as days of often violent protests that forced the resignation of the government show few signs of abating.

An official at Cairo International Airport said Israeli carrier El Al was trying to arrange a special flight Saturday to take roughly 200 Israeli tourists out of the country. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak with the media.

Israel's embassy in Egypt declined to comment. Between 1,500 and 2,000 travellers were at the two main departure terminals, most without reservations, trying to find flights out of the country.

Death toll reaches 74

At least 74 people have been killed in protests across Egypt calling for an end to the rule of President Hosni Mubarak, according to a tally from media reports from medical sources, hospitals and witnesses.

There was no official figure, but officials have said they expected the death toll to rise.

Some 68 deaths were reported killed in Cairo, Suez and Alexandria during Friday's protests. Before then, security sources said at least six people, including a police officer had been killed.

On Saturday, medical sources told Reuters around 2,000 people had been wounded throughout the country, however with more protests erupting, that number is almost certain to rise.

Protesters attack Rafah security HQ

Egyptian protesters have attacked the state security headquarters in the border town of Rafah, in clashes that killed three policemen, witnesses said.

Women wail at Suez morgue for victims

Around 100 people gathered outside the morgue in the eastern Egyptian city of Suez on Saturday where they said the bodies of 12 protesters killed on Friday in anti-government demonstrations were.

A group of women sitting on low wall near the morgue wailed and wept when a hospital truck brought another body. 

Children among dead

Thirty bodies were taken to El Damardash hospital in central Cairo between 1pm and 11pm on Friday during the protests calling for the ousting of Egypt's president, a hospital source said on Saturday. She said two of the dead were children, one aged seven, the other aged four.

Israel to remain silent over Egypt protests

Israel's prime minister ordered government spokesmen to keep silent Saturday on anti-government protests in neighboring Egypt. Security officials nonetheless expressed concern the violence could threaten ties with its important ally and spread to the Palestinian National Authority.

Two Israeli officials said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered all government spokesmen not to comment on the mass riots in Egypt.

Iran voices support for protests

Iran on Saturday voiced its support for the anti-government protests in Egypt and called on Cairo to avoid any violence against the "wave of Islamic awakening," Fars news agency reported.  

"The protests of the Muslim people of Egypt is a move towards gaining justice and realizing their national and religious will," Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said. "Iran expects the Egyptian leaders to acknowledge the people's will and avoid any force against the wave of Islamic awakening."

Protesters gather in main square

Angry citizens on Saturday streamed into Tahrir square, a focal point for the protests and street battles that have raged around Egypt since Tuesday and in which at least 35 people have died, chanting: "Mubarak out!" as troops watched on.

Tanks were deployed on the square and at strategic sites around the capital. A security source said that 60 per cent of police stations around the country had been torched, including 17 in the capital.

Security developments in Egypt

Cairo: Several thousand protesters are in capital's main Tahrir square, some carrying Egyptian flags, saying they will not leave until President Hosni Mubarak steps down. Several army armoured vehicles stationed there. Police fire shots near demonstrators, not clear if the rounds were live.

Alexandria: Several hundred demonstrators gather in centre of the city chanting "Down, Down, Hosni Mubarak" as well as shouting slogans in support of the army. Some shake hands with soldiers deployed in the city.

Al Jazeera television says its correspondent had seen more than 20 bodies in the city, following massive demonstrations and clashes with security forces on Friday.

Esmailia: Thousands of protesters gather in the city, east of Cairo. Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets.

Suez: Dozens also gathered in the central areas of the port city chanting "Down, Down, Hosni Mubarak". The demonstrators were smaller than recent days.  About 100 people gather outside the morgue in the city saying it was holding the bodies of 12 protesters killed in anti-government demonstrations.

Damanhour: Thousands protest in this Nile Delta city chanting anti-government slogans, telling Mubarak to quit.

Egypt stock market yet to decide on opening

The Egyptian financial market regulator said the North African country’s bourse hasn’t decided on whether the stock market will open tomorrow. It’s the exchange’s decision to open or not, Ziad Bahaa Al Deen, chairman of the Cairo-based Egyptian Financial Supervisor Authority, said in a telephone interview on Saturday.

The country's benchmark stock gauge, the EGX 30 Index, plunged 16 per cent in the past two trading days. Khaled Seyam, the chairman of the Egyptian Exchange, couldn't be reached on his mobile and didn't respond to a text message.

Protesters, police clash in Esmailiya

Violent clashes broke out in the Egyptian canal city of Esmailiya on Saturday, witnesses said, as nationwide anti-government riots entered their fifth day.

Police used rubber bullets and tear gas against thousands of port workers who poured into the city after being turned away from work on Saturday, witnesses said.

Saudi exchange tumbles on Egypt protests

Saudi Arabia's stock exchange has tumbled by over 4 per cent in a decline fueled by the unrest in Egypt.

The Saudi Tadawul was down almost 4.4 per cent to 6,404.3 points by about 12.45pm on Saturday, the start of the work week in the kingdom.

The drop came a day after tens of thousands of Egyptians clashed with security forces, setting fire to government buildings and demanding President Hosni Mubarak to resign.

The protests which began on Tuesday, and were inspired by similar demonstrations in Tunisia two weeks earlier, have battered the Egyptian stock market and are expected to rattle other regional markets.

Suez Canal traffic unaffected by Egypt unrest

Traffic through the Suez Canal hasn't been affected by the protests in Egypt over the past five days, Mahmoud Abdul Wahab, the Suez Canal Authority's spokesman, said in a telephone interview on Saturday.

Arab Americans urge US to support Egypt protestors

Arab Americans called on the United States to stop supporting the decades-long Egypt government as they watched protestors take to the streets with wonder and hope. The time for change is "long overdue" and the spontaneous mass protests are evidence of "widespread popular discontent," the Egyptian American Society said.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations issued a statement saying that "governmental reforms are long overdue throughout the region." The Muslim Public Affairs Council called on US President Barack Obama to support "oppressed" Egyptians and "call for an immediate end to the current regime's violent treatment of its people."

Rallies in support of the protestors were being hastily planned across the United States as leaders of the Muslim and Arab communities embraced the chance for real political reform in the Middle East.

Police fire at demonstrators
Egyptian police fired shots near demonstrators who have gathered in side streets leading on to the capital's main square on Saturday, although it was not clear if the rounds were live, witnesses said.

Shots ricocheted off buildings near Tahrir Square, but it was not clear if these were rubber bullets.

Tanks have surrounded the square, where hundreds of anti-government protesters have gathered to demand that the Egyptian president quit, hours after he had delivered a speech sacking the cabinet and promising to address frustrations.

"Go away, go away," they chanted, gathering in Tahrir square in full view of the army which had been deployed in the city to quell the revolt. "Peacful, peaceful," they shouted.

Egypt Central Bank on reserves

Egyptian Central Bank Governor Farouk Al Okdah said the country has enough foreign currency reserves to accommodate investors should they wish to withdraw funds. The Cairo-based central bank has $36 billion in reserves, the governor said in a telephone interview on Saturday.

Fitch downgrades Egypt outlook to negative

Fitch Rating on Friday revised down its outlook for Egypt, dropping it to "negative" as mass protests in the country turned violent, engulfing the capital and other cities in a serious challenge to President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule. Fitch said it was holding steady Egypt's other ratings, including its long-term foreign currency issuer default rating, which was held at the investment grade BB+.

"The Outlook revision reflects the recent upsurge in political protests and the uncertainty this adds to the political and economic outlook ahead of September's elections," said Richard Fox, head of Fitch's Middle East and Africa Sovereign Ratings. Egypt is slated to hold presidential elections in the fall.

The revision comes after the Egyptian stock exchange's benchmark EGX30 plummeted about 17 percent in two days, a drop fueled by investor panic over the Tunisia-inspired protests that erupted Tuesday in the Arab world's most populous nation. The demonstrations have focused on the economic disparity in the country, spiraling food prices and the grinding poverty that afflicts nearly 40 per cent of Egypt's 80 million people. The unrest appears to have already hit at least one US oil company. 

Communications blackout partially lifted

Mobile phone services have been partially restored in Egypt after a government-ordered communications blackout aimed at stopping the largest anti-government protests to hit the country in decades. Vodafone service was working Saturday morning, about 24 hours after it was cut. Other service providers remained down, as did the internet.

Vodafone said Friday that the Egyptian government had ordered all mobile telephone operators to suspend services "in selected areas" of the country.

Britain-based Vodafone Group PLC is one of the largest mobile phone operators in Egypt, with more than 25 million subscribers. Protesters have used text messaging and social networking websites to coordinate demonstrations.

Al Jazeera: More than 20 bodies seen by reporters in Alexandria

Al Jazeera television said on Saturday its correspondent had seen more than 20 bodies in the Egyptian city of Alexandria, following massive demonstrations and clashes with security forces on Friday. The Qatar-based satellite channel gave no further details.
Egypt state TV denies Al Baradei is under house arrest

Egyptian opposition leader Mohammad Al Baradei isn’t under house arrest as was previously reported by Arab satellite channels, Egyptian state TV said in an on-screen headline. Al Baradei is the former head of the United Nations' atomic agency and a Nobel Prize laureate. 

Mubarak fires Cabinet

In his first response to the unrest sweeping his nation, Egypt's president fired his Cabinet Saturday and promised reforms but refused to step down, setting the stage for perhaps even heavier street battles with protesters calling for an end to his nearly 30 years in power.

Protesters seized the streets of Cairo, battling police with stones and firebombs and burning down the ruling party headquarters. Many defied a 6 pm curfew and crowds remained on the streets long after midnight, where buildings and tires were still burning and there was widespread looting.

Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, a leading pro-democracy advocate, was soaked with a water cannon and briefly trapped inside a mosque after joining the protests. He was later placed under house arrest.

In the capital, hundreds of young men carted away televisions, fans and stereo equipment looted from the National Democratic Party, near the Egyptian Museum, home of King Tutankhamun's treasures.

Young men formed a human barricade in front of the museum to protect one of Egypt's most important tourist attractions.

Others around the city looted banks, smashed cars, tore down street signs and pelted armored riot police vehicles with paving stones torn from roadways.

With input from agencies