Nationwide curfew imposed in Egypt; army deploys on streets

Mubarak orders military reinforcement for first time since anti-gov't protests began; ruling party headquarters goes up in flames in Cairo; 2 killed in clashes hours earlier, ElBaradei under house arrest.

Egypt riots_311 (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Egypt riots_311
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
CAIRO —  Egyptian state television on Friday said that President Hosni Mubarak has expanded the night curfew nationwide, an acknowledgment of how serious and widespread the anti-government protests are.
Mubarak earlier Friday ordered a nighttime curfew in Cairo, the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria and the flashpoint city of Suez east of the Egyptian capital.
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Meanwhile, Egypt's military was deployed on the streets of Cairo for the first time since anti-government protesters took up their challenge to Mubarak's regime four days ago.
Parts of the ruling party headquarters in Cairo were going up in flames apparently set by enraged protesters demanding Mubarak's ouster.
One woman was killed in Cairo, and another man was shot to death in Suez earlier Friday, while police placed Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei under house arrest.
Earlier, after joining the protests, ElBaradei and his supporters were forced to hide inside a mosque while hundreds of riot police laid siege to it, firing tear gas in the streets around so no one could leave.
One of the leaders of the opposition, Ayman Nour of the "El-Ghad" movement, also sustained a head injury from a stone, said al-Jazeera.
Friday's protests saw tens of thousands of anti-government demonstrators pouring into the streets of Egypt, stoning and confronting police who fired back with rubber bullets and tear gas in the most violent and chaotic scenes yet in the challenge to Mubarak's 30-year rule.
Groups of thousands of protesters, some chanting "out, out, out," gathered at different venues across Cairo, some marching toward major squares and across scenic Nile bridges. Security officials said there were protests in at least 11 of the country's 28 provinces.
The protesters have said they are emboldened by the uprising in Tunisia, another north African Arab nation. Egypt is Washington's closest Arab ally, but Mubarak may be losing US support. The Obama administration has publicly counseled Mubarak to introduce reforms and refrain from using violence against the protesters.
The United States said the situation in Egypt is of "deep concern" and called on Egyptian authorities to enact reforms and allow peaceful protests and open communication as anti-government street protests swell.
State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said Friday that Egypt must respect the "fundamental rights" of its people and avoid violence. He also said reform is vital to the country's long-term stability and security, and urged the government to view its people as a partner and not a threat.
Crowley's comments were posted on Twitter, which has been blocked by Egyptian authorities.
Mubarak has not been seen publicly or heard from since the protests began Tuesday. While Mubarak may still have a chance to ride out this latest challenge, his choices are limited, and all are likely to lead to a loosening of his grip on power.
Mubarak has not said yet whether he will stand for another six-year term as president in elections this year. He has never appointed a deputy and is thought to be grooming his son Gamal to succeed him despite popular opposition. According to leaked US memos, hereditary succession also does not meet with the approval of the powerful military.
Mubarak and his government have shown no hint of concessions to the protesters who want political reform and a solution to rampant poverty, unemployment and rising food prices.