Friday, January 28, 2011

Tens of thousands of protesters take to streets in Cairo, Egypt.

Friday 28 January 2011
Tens of thousands of protesters take to the streets clashing with police across Egypt who retaliate with tear gas and rubber bullets. The Channel 4 News correspondent in Cairo witnesses an "uprising".
Violence erupts across Egypt as unrest escalates
Violence broke out in cities across Egypt on Friday as tens of thousands of anti-government protesters clashed with security forces.
Demonstrators demanding an end to President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule fought battles with riot police in a fourth day of unprecedented protests.
In an apparent bid to crackdown on unrest, much of Egypt saw a communications blackout with the internet blocked and mobile phone networks down in certain areas.
A curfew was announced in main cities from 6pm local time (1600 GMT) to 7am (0500 GMT), although thousands appeared to ignore it.
As embattled President Mubarak prepared to speak for the first time since the unrest began, a large fire burned inside the perimeter of the ruling party headquarters in Cairo.
In the capital the Channel 4 News correspondent on the ground witnessed a fierce standoff between activists and police.
Security forces, including what are believed to be plainclothes policemen, fired salvos of tear gas and water cannons at thousands of people to try to disperse the crowd.
Protesters hurled back stones and Molotov cocktails chanting "change, change", "God is great" and singing the national anthem.
"Something changed today. This became a full blown uprising against Mubarak rule cutting across social divide."Channel 4 News correspondent
The Channel 4 News correspondent witnessed thousands of people being driven off a bridge in central Cairo after huge amounts of tear gas were fired.
Demonstrators chanting "people want democracy" regrouped in backstreets.
At one point during Friday around 500 protesters knelt towards Mecca to pray amid smoke from a burning police kiosk.
"Something changed today," our correspondent said. "This became a full blown uprising against Mubarak rule cutting across social divide."
As night fell thick black smoke could be seen billowing across parts of the capital. According to reports military vehicles had entered the capital.
Violence erupts across Egypt as unrest escalates
Friday saw the biggest protests so far after four consecutive days of action in Egypt.
Clashes were reported across the country including in the city of Suez which has seen some of the worst violence.
After fresh clashes on Friday, the body of a protester was carried through the streets, according to witnesses.
One of the demonstrators shouted "They have killed my brother," as police withdrew from central areas of the eastern city, leaving some main streets to activists.
Footage of the protests showed a number of people with bloodied heads and other injures.
Nobel Peace Laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, who has called for the Egyptian President to quit, joined a peaceful march in Cairo on Friday after demonstrators near him clashed with police earlier in the day, witnesses said.
"All mobile operators in Egypt have been instructed to suspend services in selected areas."Vodafone
An Arabic television channel earlier said ElBaradei, who returned to Egypt on Thursday, had been penned in by police where he had taken part in Friday prayers at a mosque. The protesters around him had thrown stones at police after they were sprayed with water.
Protests in Egypt were triggered by the overthrow two weeks ago of Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Al Ben Ali in a popular revolt which also inspired anti-government protests in Yemen.
Internet and mobile phone blackout
Internet access was shut down in the early hours of Friday morning, hampering communication across the country. Some mobile phone networks were also disabled, with some working only sporadically.
Vodafone group said all mobile operators in Egypt had been instructed to suspend services in selected areas.
"All mobile operators in Egypt have been instructed to suspend services in selected areas," Vodafone group said in a statement to Channel 4 News.
"Under Egyptian legislation the authorities have the right to issue such an order and we are obliged to comply with it. The Egyptian authorities will be clarifying the situation in due course."
Protesters have relied on the internet, especially social media services like Twitter and Facebook, to organise demonstrations and to share video and pictures of events.
US-based internet monitoring firm Renesys said the total shutdown of the web it recorded early on Friday was "unprecedented in internet history", going far beyond measures taken during Tunisia's protests or the 2009 unrest in Iran.
Web attacks
Despite the crackdown some computer-savvy protesters were managed to bypass parts of the block.
With international interest growing the Twitter hashtag #jan25 - coined from Egyptian protests earlier this week - was trending worldwide throughout the day.
Earlier this week online activists told Channel 4 News the loosely-organised group Anonymoushad conducted denial-of-service attacks on a number of Egyptian government websites in retaliation.
One source told Channel 4 News the websites for the Ministry of the Interior and the ruling party were brought down for a few hours after hacker activity.
The attacks followed a similar "cyber war" in Tunisia, where key government websites were knocked offline during street protests that led to the toppling of President Zine al-Abedine Ben Ali.
US President Barack Obama urged Egyptian President Mubarak to make "absolutely critical" reforms, ratcheting up pressure on the key US ally.
Obama was careful to avoid any sign of abandoning Mubarak but made clear his sympathy for demonstrators he said were expressing "pent-up frustrations" over the lack of meaningful change.
Protesters have told Channel 4 News they expect demonstrations to continue on Saturday.

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