Protesters have pledged to intensify their battle to unseat Hosni Mubarak by
Friday, after opponents and supporters of the Egyptian president clashed in a
second straight day of rock-throwing battles at a central Cairo square and new
forms of lawlessness spread throughout the battered city.
a defiant tone Thursday, telling ABC News’s Christiane Amanpour he would “never
run away” and would “die on the soil of Egypt.”
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The embattled president
said in an interview Thursday that he was ready to leave office, but could not,
for fear his country would sink deeper into chaos.
“I am fed up. After 62
years in public service, I have had enough. I want to go,” Mubarak said in an
interview at the presidential palace.
Amanpour said Mubarak had told her
he was troubled by the deadly violence between anti- and pro-government groups in
Tahrir Square and that the government was not responsible for it. The president
blamed the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood for the violence and said he did not
intend to have his son Gamal assume the presidency after him.
said that in a phone conversation with US President Barack Obama earlier this
week, he had told his American counterpart, “You don’t understand the Egyptian
culture,” and asked, “What would happen if I step down now?” Looting and arson
erupted throughout the capital Thursday, as gangs of thugs supporting Mubarak
attacked reporters, foreigners and rights workers while the army rounded up
foreign journalists. The government seemed to be advancing a narrative whereby
foreigners had been fueling the turmoil and supporting the tens of thousands of
demonstrators in the streets.
Pro-government mobs beat foreign
journalists with sticks on the streets outside downtown Tahrir Square, the
epicenter of the protests. Dozens of journalists, including ones from The
Washington Post and The New York Times, were reported detained by security
forces. One Greek print journalist was stabbed in the leg with a screwdriver,
and a photographer was punched in the face by attackers who smashed some of his
The Arabic news network Al-Arabiya pleaded on an urgent news
scroll for the army to protect its offices and journalists, and Al- Jazeera said
two of its correspondents had been attacked.
The director of
CyberDissidents.org – an organization that describes itself as
“supporting human liberty by promoting the voices of online dissidents” – told
The Jerusalem Post
on Thursday that the much-touted stability of the Mubarak
regime was little more than a facade.
“There is nothing stable about an
impoverished, illiterate, repressive, dysfunctional dictatorship,” David Keyes
wrote in an e-mail from New York. “No one need apologize for pressuring a brutal
tyrant who imprisons bloggers, arrests opposition figures and stifles free
Vice President Omar Suleiman blamed outside actors for fanning
the flames of unrest.
“When there are demonstrations of this size, there
will be foreigners who come and take advantage, and they have an agenda to raise
the energy of the protesters,” he said in an interview on state
Suleiman promised that the 82- year-old Mubarak’s son Gamal
would not run to succeed his father in presidential elections in September, and
offered to hold negotiations on the country’s future even with the regime’s
biggest domestic enemy, the Muslim Brotherhood. He said the Brotherhood remained
“hesitant,” but underlined that it was a “valuable opportunity” for the
Suleiman said the police had “lost some of its
capabilities” and that the army – the main force on the streets of the capital –
was struggling to fill the void.
Earlier Thursday, Prime Minister Ahmed
Shafiq acknowledged that the attack “seemed to have been organized” and said
elements had infiltrated what had begun as a demonstration against the
protesters to turn it violent. But he said he did not know who had done
so, promising an investigation.
“I offer my apology for everything that
happened yesterday, because it’s neither logical nor rational,” Shafiq said on
state television. “Everything that happened yesterday will be
investigated so everyone knows who was behind it.”
Shafiq, a former air
force general appointed by Mubarak over the weekend, defended Mubarak’s
announcement Tuesday that he would serve out the rest of his term.
it be dignified for a nation for its president to leave immediately?” Shafiq
said. “There are ethics that must be observed.”
activists were also targeted. Military police stormed the offices of an Egyptian
rights group as activists were meeting and arrested at least 30, including one
from the Londonbased Amnesty International and another from the New York-based
Human Rights Watch, the groups said.
Lawlessness that had largely eased
since the weekend flared anew. A fire raged in a major supermarket outside
Sheikh Zayed, a suburb of the capital, and looters were ransacking the building.
A residential building neighboring a five-star hotel on the Nile River corniche
was also ablaze, blocks away from Tahrir.
Other fires erupted in the
Cairo district of Shubra, north of the center, security officials
On Thursday evening, the UKbased mobile company Vodafone said it
had been forced to send mass pro-government text messages during the
The social networking site Twitter has been buzzing with screen
grabs from Vodafone’s Egyptian customers showing text messages sent over the
course of the demonstrations.
A text message received Sunday by an
Associated Press reporter in Egypt appealed to the country’s “honest and loyal
men to confront the traitors and criminals and protect our people and honor.”
Another urged Egyptians to attend a pro-Mubarak rally in Cairo on
The first was marked as coming from “Vodafone.” The other was
signed: “Egypt Lovers.”
Meanwhile, a sense of victory ran through the
protesters Thursday after they succeeded in keeping their hold on the square and
pushing back their attackers.
“Thank God, we managed to protect the whole
area,” said Abdul Rahman, a taxi driver who was among thousands who stayed in
the square through the night, hunkered down against the thousands besieging the
“We prevented the pro- Mubarak people from storming the
streets leading to the square,” he said. He refused to give his full
Many dismissed the government concessions, which would have been
stunning only a month ago, and said they wanted nothing less than for Mubarak to
“We have gone beyond these demands a long time ago,” said Waheed
Hamad, a 40-year-old schoolteacher among the protesters.
“What we need is
something bigger. And the road is still long.” He said the attacks on
protests would only make them grow. “Blood is the fuel of the
revolution,” he declared.
At least eight people have been killed and
hundreds wounded in the fighting in and around Tahrir.
Bands of Mubarak
supporters moved through side streets around Tahrir, trading stonethrowing
volleys with the protesters and attacking cars to stop supplies from reaching
the protest camp. One band stopped a car, ripped open the trunk and found boxes
of juice, water and food, which they took before forcing the driver to
As evening fell, the tanks in Tahrir Square started to move for the
first time, creating a barrier on one of the main roads to the plaza. The tanks
were in place for so long that many had accumulated piles of trash
They moved into position as hundreds of men completed evening
prayers, kneeling in perfect stillness as the giant machines rolled past.
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