Egypt’s most prominent reform advocate called on Sunday for President Hosni
Mubarak to resign after the powerful military stepped up its presence across the
anarchic capital, closing roads with tanks and sending F-16 fighter jets
streaking over downtown.
Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei appeared
in Tahrir Square around 7 p.m. “You are the owners of this revolution.
You are the future,” he told the cheering crowd.RELATED:
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“Our essential demand is
the departure of the regime and the beginning of a new Egypt in which each
Egyptian lives in virtue, freedom and dignity.”
The army’s show of force
appeared aimed at quelling looting, armed robbery and arson that broke out
alongside pro-democracy protests and have turned the cultural heart of the Arab
world into a tableau of once-unimaginable scenes of chaos.
made no attempt to disperse some 5,000 protesters gathered at Tahrir Square, a
plaza in the heart of downtown Cairo that protesters have occupied since Friday
They had violated the curfew to call for the ouster of
Mubarak’s regime, which they blame for poverty, unemployment, widespread
corruption and police brutality.
One of the senior leaders of the
outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, which wants to establish an Islamist state in the
Arab world’s most populous nation, told The Associated Press he was heading to
Tahrir Square to meet with other opposition leaders.
“You can call this a
revolution, you can call this an uprising,” Essam el-Erian said.
situation in Egypt continues to unfold, with the events certain to have
tremendous ramifications for both Israeli and US policy in the region, the two
countries were in close consultation at the highest levels over the weekend,
monitoring the situation and trading assessments.
Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu spoke on Saturday evening both with US President Barack Obama and
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and on Sunday Defense Minister Ehud Barak
spoke by phone with Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Netanyahu, in his
first public comments on the crisis, said at the opening of the weekly cabinet
meeting that Israel was “anxiously monitoring” the developments in Egypt and the
“Our efforts are designed to continue and maintain stability and
security in our region,” he said.
Netanyahu, who last met with Mubarak to
discuss the diplomatic process three weeks ago in Sharm e-Sheikh, said “the
peace between Israel and Egypt has endured for over three decades, and our goal
is to ensure that these relations continue.
“Of course, at this time, we
must show maximum responsibility, restraint and good judgment, and, to this end,
I have instructed my fellow ministers to refrain from commenting on this issue.
Naturally, we are also holding consultations in the appropriate government
Unlike other countries and international organizations, such as
the US, EU and UN, Israel – which obviously has a huge stake in how things turn
out in Egypt – has made no official comment on the matter, beyond Netanyahu’s
brief comments.Economic turmoil hits following protests
On the first day of trading across the region after a
weekend of protests and violence, nervous investors drove stocks down sharply.
Crowds of foreigners filled Cairo International Airport, desperate and unable to
leave because dozens of flights were canceled and delayed.
The US Embassy
said it was making arrangements to begin flying Americans out on Monday. The families of
Israeli diplomats were evacuated over the weekend.
Gangs of armed men
attacked at least four jails across Egypt before dawn, helping to free hundreds
of Muslim extremists and thousands of other inmates. Young men with guns and
large sticks smashed cars and robbed people in Cairo.
The official death
toll from five days of growing crisis stood at 97, with thousands wounded, but
reports from witnesses across the country indicated that the actual toll was far
The lawlessness, uncertainty, and indications of an attempted
exodus from Cairo were gravely damaging Egypt’s economy, particularly tourism,
which accounts for as much as 11 percent of the country’s gross domestic
Banks were closed on orders from Egypt’s Central Bank, and the
country’s stock market was shut on what is normally the first day of the trading
An unprecedented Internet cutoff remained in place for a third day
after the country’s four primary Internet providers stopped moving data in and
out of the country early on Friday, in an apparent move by authorities to
disrupt the organization of demonstrations. Mobile-phone networks were back up
but with text-messaging widely disrupted.
Secretary of State Clinton
appealed for an orderly transition to lasting democracy, saying the US expects
that the protests will lead to free and fair elections.
“I want the
Egyptian people to have a chance to chart a new future,” she said. “It’s not a
question of who retains power... It’s how are we going to respond to the
legitimate needs and grievances expressed by the Egyptian
Widespread looting and attacks erupted after police almost all
disappeared on Friday evening, creating a security vacuum only partially filled
by the presence of army troops backed by tanks at key sites around the city of
18 million people.
The military has been generally welcomed by
demonstrators across Cairo, unlike the widely despised police, and the army sent
hundreds more troops and armored vehicles onto the streets starting on Sunday
Police return to Cairo's streets
In the afternoon, truckloads of hundreds of police poured back
into Cairo neighborhoods and took up positions on the streets.
Minister Habib al-Adly told police commanders he was ordering security forces to
return to the streets in the capital and elsewhere to work in tandem with troops
to restore order.
“It is necessary that the police role is quickly
restored and that there should be cooperation in the field with the armed forces
... to defend the presence and future of the nation,” he said.
spots, cops were jeered by residents who chanted anti-police slogans and
demanded that they only be allowed to deploy jointly with the
In one part of Tahrir Square, soldiers working with civilian
protester volunteers were even checking IDs and bags of people arriving at the
square, saying they were searching for weapons and making sure plainclothes
police were kept out.
“The army is protecting us, they won’t let police
infiltrators sneak in!” one volunteer shouted.
Then, minutes before the
start of a 4 p.m. curfew, at least two jets roared over the Nile and toward
The jets made several passes over the square, dropping
lower every time and setting off alarms in parked cars.
clapped and waved to them while others jeered. Lines of army tanks jammed a road
leading into Tahrir, and a military helicopter hovered overhead.
terrorism, they are trying to scare the people with the planes and the tanks.
They are trying to make people afraid and leave the square,” said Gamal Ahmed, a
40-year-old air-conditioning technician.
By evening, the presence of
overtly pious Muslims in the square was conspicuous, suggesting a significant
Muslim Brotherhood representation. Hundreds performed the sunset prayers. Veiled
women prayed separately.
ElBaradei, the former head of the UN nuclear
watchdog left after his brief appearance, and some demonstrators dismissed him
as an expatriate long removed from the country’s problems.
feel he loves prizes and traveling abroad,” said Muhammad Munir, 27. “He’s not
really one of the people.”
About two hours later the government announced
that it was moving the start of the curfew from 4 p.m. to 3. The widely ignored
ban on movement outdoors still ends at 8 a.m.
Mubarak, 82, perpetuated
the overriding role of military men in Egyptian politics on Saturday by naming
his intelligence chief, former army general Omar Suleiman, to the new role of
vice president. Ahmed Shafiq, the outgoing civil aviation minister and Mubarak’s
fellow former air force officer, was named prime minister.
State TV on
Sunday showed images of Mubarak during what it said was a visit to the country’s
military command center. The president looked somber and fatigued in his first
public appearance since he addressed the nation late on Friday to promise reform
and announce the dismissal of his cabinet.
The brief footage appeared
designed to project an image of normalcy.
But Egyptian security officials
said that overnight armed men fired at guards in gun battles that lasted hours
at the four prisons, including one northwest of Cairo that held hundreds of
Islamist militants. The prisoners escaped after starting fires and clashing with
Those who fled included 34 members of the Muslim Brotherhood,
whose lawyer, Abdel-Monaem Abdel-Maqsoud, told AP they were among scores rounded
up by authorities ahead of large anti-government demonstrations on Friday. The
escapees included at least seven senior members of the group.
security officials said several inmates were killed and wounded, but gave no
The officials told AP that army troops were hunting for
the escaped prisoners, in some cases with the help of the police. State
television showed footage of what it said was dozens of prisoners recaptured by
the army troops, squatting on dirt while soldiers kept watch over
In the southern city of Assiut, officials said riot police stormed
the city’s main prison to quell a riot, using tear gas and batons against
inmates. An AP reporter saw army tanks deployed outside the prison, on bridges
straddling the Nile and at the police headquarters.
Thousands of people
met to pray in downtown Alexandria, a Mediterranean port city that is a
stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood. After prayers, the crowd marched toward
the city’s old mosque to pray for the souls of those who died in the
Al-Jazeera said that Egyptian authorities ordered the closure
of its Cairo news hub overseeing coverage of the country’s massive street
protests, and denounced the move as an attempt to “stifle and repress” open
The Qatar-based network has given nearly round-theclock
coverage to the unprecedented uprising against Mubarak and had faced criticism
by government supporters and other Arab leaders as a forum to inspire more
Also on Sunday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for
nonviolence in Egypt before an audience that included Palestinian Authority
President Mahmoud Abbas and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
respect to Egypt, I once again make a call for restraint, nonviolence and
respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights,” the secretary-general said
in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he is attending a summit of the African
The challenges for Africa remain great, Ban said, but he sees
“clearer skies ahead” because of the African Union.
“The Charter of the
United Nations – of which you are all signatories – and the Constitutive Act of
the African Union share the same principles and goals and values – peace,
security, stability, human rights, good governance and the rule of law, dignity
and economic development, social progress and better standards of life in larger
freedom,” Ban said.
Jordana Horn in New York contributed to this report.
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