250,000 protesters gather in Cairo's Tahrir Square

Anti-government protests continue in 7th day, calling for Mubarak's removal; Al-Jazeera says 6 journalists arrested, subsequently released.

Tahrir Square crowds protesters 311 AP (photo credit: AP)
Tahrir Square crowds protesters 311 AP
(photo credit: AP)
Around 250,000 protesters gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square Monday afternoon as anti-government protests continued for the seventh day, the pan-Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera reported.
Protesters ignored the state-imposed curfew which began at 3 p.m. as a coalition of opposition groups called for a million people to take to the streets Tuesday to demand the removal of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the clearest sign yet that a unified leadership was emerging for Egypt's powerful but disparate protest movement.
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Earlier Monday, Al-Jazeera reported that six of its journalists were in Egyptian custody after authorities ordered the closure of the network's Cairo office. By mid-afternoon, the network reported via Twitter that the six were released but that authorities had seized their equipment.
The Qatar-based network said the journalists were working for its English-language channel — a sister operation to the flagship Arabic service.
The detentions came a day after Egyptian authorities shut Al-Jazeera's office, complaining its round-the-clock coverage was slanted toward protesters and could encourage more unrest which has reached its seventh day.
Al-Jazeera denounced the closure as an attempt to muzzle open reporting as anti-government demonstrations and protests continued. The network had managed to continue coverage in Egypt with fixed-position cameras and reports by phone.
On Monday morning, Egyptian helicopters were sighted flying above Tahrir Square, CNN reported.
Click here for full Jpost coverage of unrest in EgyptClick here for full Jpost coverage of unrest in Egypt
Egyptian soldiers and armored tanks continued their presence on city streets, CNN said and Al-Jazeera reported that the military presence in downtown Cairo "just keeps getting stricter day by day; there's more roadblocks, more barbed wire, there's more restrictions on who can move about and TV cameras are more restricted."
In an online audio posting on the network's Twitter feed, Al-Jazeera "has confirmed that regular police are redeploying in the city, they're back on the streets...they were seen at a police station...on the west side of the Nile, southwest of central Cairo."
An Al-Jazeera correspondent said the police were spotted "at a police station where the civilians on the street reportedly were not actually unhappy to see them. They were shaking hands and talking casually, perhaps happily...which might not make immediate sense since these are the people who are blamed for the deadly violence that racked the city just days ago but that's what our crews are seeing."
A leading Muslim Brotherhood official told The Associated Press that the fundamentalist movement wants to form a committee of opposition groups along with Nobel laureate and leading reform advocate Mohamed ElBaradei as a way of uniting the disparate groups calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.
Saad el-Katatni said that his group has not selected ElBaradei to represent it.
The outlawed Muslim Brotherhood is Egypt's largest opposition movement, and wants to form an Islamist state in the most populous Arab nation.
The police, which before the revolt could be seen on nearly every corner, melted away Friday, giving way to looting and arson. Gangs of thugs have cleared out supermarkets, shopping malls and stores, as well as luxury homes and apartments in affluent residential areas in the suburbs. On Monday, police were beginning to redeploy in many neighborhoods.