After five days of protests, Egyptian security forces were on high alert Sunday after Cairo was engulfed in chaos overnight Saturday. There was rampant looting, and lawlessness spread fast.
Residents of affluent neighborhoods were boarding up their homes against
gangs of thugs roaming the streets with knives and sticks, and gunfire
was heard in some neighborhoods.
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The death toll for five days of
protests rose sharply since Friday to around 100, according Israel
Radio. About 2,000 people have also reportedly been injured.
after midnight on Saturday, witnesses said police shot dead 17 people
who tried to attack two police stations in the Beni Suef governorate,
south of Cairo, Reuters reported.
According to the report, 12 of
the victims attempted to attack a police station in Biba, while the five
others tried to attack another station in Nasser city. Dozens were
reported injured in the confrontations.
Earlier on Saturday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak named a vice president
on Saturday, for
the first time since coming to power nearly 30 years ago – a clear step
toward setting up a successor in the midst of the biggest
anti-government protests of his regime.
Intelligence chief Omar
Suleiman’s appointment as the country’s first vice president since
Mubarak held the post from 1975-1981 may be intended to enable him to
take control of a transitional government after Mubarak’s resignation,
CNN reported on Saturday evening, citing a senior source in the ruling
A source within the ruling National Democratic Party was quoted by CNN
as saying that the appointment of Suleiman “could well be the beginning
of a transition allowing the president to step down.”
to the report, many in Cairo consider Mubarak’s resignation a foregone
conclusion; however, no exact information was given as to when the
resignation might occur.
Violence raged through Egypt on Saturday
and tanks and armored personnel carriers fanned out across Cairo,
guarding key government buildings. Egyptian television reported the army
was deploying reinforcements to neighborhoods to try to control the
The military was protecting major tourist and
archeological sites such as the Egyptian Museum, home to some of the
country’s most treasured antiquities, as well as the cabinet building.
The military closed the Great Pyramids on the outskirts of Cairo –
Egypt’s premiere tourist site.
Mubarak's party headquarters burned down
Friday, protesters burned down the headquarters of Mubarak’s ruling
party along the Nile and set fire to other buildings, roaming the
streets of downtown Cairo in defiance of a night curfew enforced by the
first army deployment.
Thousands of people defied the curfew for
the second night on Saturday, standing their ground in the main Tahrir
Square in a resounding rejection of Mubarak’s attempt to hang onto power
with promises of reform and a new government.
“What we want is
for Mubarak to leave, not just his government,” Muhammad Mahmoud, a
demonstrator in Tahrir Square, said. “We will not stop protesting until
On Saturday, there was no police presence on the streets.
military tanks and soldiers were stationed at almost every
intersection, as the burned skeletons of police vehicles littered the
roads from Friday’s violence.
People on their way to Tahrir
Square on Saturday scrambled all over the destroyed vehicles, snapping
pictures with their cellphones. Residents cheered the tanks whenever
they saw them, and some went up to the soldiers and hugged and kissed
them, thanking them for being there.
On one tank was scrawled black graffiti: “Down with Mubarak.”
hate the police because they have no humanity,” said Tarek Muhammad, a
second-year communications student at Cairo University. “The army knows
our rights, and knows what we want, and I think our army can change with
us.”Several police stations torched
contrast, protesters have attacked police, who are hated for their
brutality. On Friday, 17 police stations throughout the capital were
torched, with protesters stealing firearms and ammunition and setting
some jailed suspects free. They also burned dozens of police trucks in
Cairo, Alexandria and Suez.
On Saturday, protesters besieged a
police station in the Giza neighborhood of Cairo, looting and pulling
down Egyptian flags before burning the building to the ground.
army captain joined the demonstrators in Tahrir, who hoisted him on
their shoulders while chanting slogans against Mubarak. The officer
ripped a picture of the president.
“We don’t want him! We will go
after him!” demonstrators shouted. They decried looting and sabotage,
saying: “Those who love Egypt should not sabotage Egypt!”
thousands of people tried to storm the Interior Ministry, police opened
fire. At least three protesters were killed; their bodies were carried
through the crowd.
The demonstrators are unified in one
overarching demand: Mubarak and his family must go. The movement is a
culmination of years of simmering frustration over a government they see
as corrupt, heavy-handed and neglectful of grinding poverty.
Mubarak sacked his cabinet
on Saturday and promised reforms to try to quell the protests, but it
did not satisfy the demonstrators, who were out in force again to demand
a complete change of regime.