'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Egypt Erupts (Part 4) 

UPDATE 3: Here's an informative background article by Issander El Amrani of The Arabist about Omar Suleiman, Egypt's newly appointed Vice President. Predictably, Suleiman is supportive of the war on terror. For something more uplifting, consider this video of an interview of one of the Egyptian solidarity protesters in London today:

UPDATE 2 (3:40PM Pacific time): Upon perusing the live blogs, I find two interrelated themes. In Cairo, the police and the military have abandoned the streets, with the exception of those near the Tax Authority which has been burned and the nearby Interior Ministry where protesters continue to attempt to seize it and burn it down as well, in an apparent effort to leave the way clear for roaming bands of thuggish-looking men who cannot be identified as plainclothes police or civilians to have their way, so as to justify a crackdown.

Consistent with this, state run Egyptian TV is giving prominent coverage to stories of looting and attacks. In response, the young people of Cairo are forming public committees to seize thugs and looters and turning them over to the army. Al-Jazeera confirms with a report that Cairo neighborhoods are being policed by local residents wielding kitchen knives and hunting rifles, after the military called for civilians to protect their own property.

Meanwhile, protesters in the provinces are still on the offensive as illustrated here:

9.46pm: Reuters reports that police shot dead 17 people trying to attack two police stations in Beni Suef governorate, according to witnesses and medical sources. Twelve of those shot were attempting to attack a police station in Biba while five others were trying to attack another in Nasser city. Dozens of others were injured in the exchanges.

And, again here, in this startling report from Time:

And a prominent Bedouin smuggler in the Sinai peninsula told TIME that Bedouin are now in control of the two towns closest to the Gaza Strip, and that they planned to press on to attack the Suez Canal if Mubarak does not step down. He also said that police stations in the south Sinai would be attacked if Bedouin prisoners were not released.

UPDATE 1: For on the ground reports, the We Are All Khalid Said Facebook page is still up. Issander El Amrani has posted a couple of articles at The Arabist, but I have yet to see anything new at 3arabaway or the Egyptian Chronicles since Thursday. Of course, that could change at any time. In addition to the live blogs at The Guardian and Al Jazeera, the BBC has a good one as well. And, don't forget the live news feed from Al Jazeera. As'ad Abukhalil is providing provocative commentary at The Angry Arab News Service as you would expect.

INITIAL POST: From The Guardian's live blog:

3.22pm: Police in Cairo are firing live rounds at protesters, according to Jack Shenker.

Running battles have broken out around the interior ministry and protesters are using car doors and corrugated iron as makeshift shields.

Shenker has confirmed with four separate sources that live ammunition is being fired. One of his close contacts was also hit on the head – fortunately by a rubber bullet.

He says there's still confusion over the military's postion. Outside the ministry he saw a tank roll in to cheers from protesters. But it then appeared to move into a holding position, prompting some protesters to throw rocks at it. Other demonstrators tried to stop them.

Reuters reports that the army used tanks and fired shots in the air to force back hundreds of protesters who were attacking the entrance to a building belonging to the Central Bank in a suburb of Cairo.

A witness told the news agency that protesters, who were using wooden planks to try to break into the building, which prints paper money, fled after seeing the tanks approach and hearing the shots.

2.23pm: Thousands of people are continuing to protest after the start of the extended curfew at 4pm (2pm GMT), Reuters reports.

Defying an army warning that anyone violating the order would be in danger, the crowds thronged in central Cairo and in Alexandria.

It does not feel like there is a curfew, I can see thousands marching next to me, a witness from Alexandria told the news agency.

From Al Jazeera's live blog:

3:33pm No confrontations are reported to be taking place between soldiers and protesters in the capital. Army personnel are still being greeted in a friendly manner, with some even handing roses to the soldiers. Al Jazeera's Ayman Mohyeldin also reports that demonstrators are not seen waving any political flags.

3:17pm The Saudi stock market, the Arab world's largest, dropped 6.43 per cent on Saturday amid rising Egypt tensions. Traders fear that other Gulf markets, due to open on Sunday, could experience similar drops.

3:06pm At least 8 people killed by live fire at prison near Cairo, and Egyptian authorities call for all banks to close.

3:03pm Al Jazeera correspondent reports that 36 deaths are confirmed in Alexandria, a coastal city where several police stations have been torched. Protesters continue to gather along the Corniche there - but not as many as yesterday.

2:56pm Notable statements-- Amr Moussa, Arab League secretary-general, says he understands the Egyptian people's anger. Mohamed ElBaradei states that he's proud of the Egyptian protest movement. And the Muslim Brotherhood calls for the peaceful transfer of power in Egypt.

2:47pm Up to 50,000 people gather in Cairo's Tahrir Square, saying that resignation of the cabinet is not enough. Egyptian state TV says that the curfew will begin at 4pm local time.

2:10pm Egyptian military closes tourist access to the pyramids.

1:58pm A group of Bedouin has attacked state security headquarters in the town of Rafah near Egypt's border with Israel, killing three policemen, witnesses and a security source said.

Meanwhile, Vice President Biden and his wife, Jill, talk about how much they have in common with the Mubaraks in a video posted on June 7, 2010:

Looks like the Bidens never saw this report on torture from the embassy. And, then, finally, there is this from the Al-Jazeera live blog:

6:18pm Al Jazeera Arabic reports that planes carrying families of Israeli diplomats have flown back to Israel.

Never to return?

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