Egypt police fire as protesters demand end to Mubarak's rule

Police, demonstrators fought running battles on the streets of Cairo in a fourth day of unprecedented protests by tens of thousands of Egyptians demanding an end to Mubarak's three-decade rule.

Egypt police fire as protesters demand end to Mubarak's rule

Police and demonstrators fought running battles on the streets of Cairo on Friday in a fourth day of unprecedented protests by tens of thousands of Egyptians demanding an end to President Hosni Mubarak's three-decade rule.

Security forces fired rubber bullets, teargas and water cannon at protesters who hurled stones back at them and shouted "Down, Down, Hosni Mubarak," witnesses said.

Anti-government activists had promised a "Day of Wrath" after Friday prayers in the country's mosques and urged thousands of people to join in the demonstrations.

Police blanketed Cairo and blocked social networking communications in an effort to stifle the protests but the violence broke out soon after prayers finished.

The protesters, many of them young Egyptians embittered by unemployment, poverty, corruption and the lack of freedom under Mubarak, appear to be loosely organised with no figurehead.

Prominent activist Mohamed ElBaradei, who has called for an end to Mubarak's rule, arrived in Egypt on Thursday. But after he joined prayers at a mosque in the Giza area, police blocked him from leaving the area.

The unrest is unprecedented in Mubarak's rule in Egypt, where security services keep a tight grip on dissent. It was 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 and Algeria.

"Inflation has exhausted people. Prices of food, fuel, electricity, sugar are rising. The rich get richer and the poor poorer," said a Cairo taxi-driver, declining to be named. "God knows what will happen today. After Tunisia anything is possible."

Some protesters threw shoes at and stamped on posters of the president. But as the clashes intensified, police waded into the crowd with batons and fired volleys of teargas.

"Leave, leave, Mubarak, Mubarak, the plane awaits you," people chanted.

"Most protesters young"

Some of the Cairo protests proceeded peacefully. Demonstrations were also staged in Suez and Ismailiya east of Cairo, Alexandria on the north coast, cities in the Nile Delta and other urban centres across Egypt.

At least five people have been killed over the four days -- far fewer than in Tunisia -- including a police officer. Police have arrested several hundred people.

Members of the Muslim Brotherhood opposition group, including at least eight senior officials, were rounded up overnight.

Internet via Egyptian servers was blocked across the country after midnight, closing a key tool for activists relying on social media networks to spread word. Mobile phone and text messaging services appeared to be disabled or working sporadically.

Facebook has been the main vehicle for announcing Friday's protest and identifying locations for demonstrations.

Many protesters are young men. Two thirds of Egypt's 80 million people are below the age of 30 and many have no jobs. About 40 percent of Egyptians live on less than $2 a day.

Egypt has been under emergency rule throughout Mubarak's term in office. Critics say it is used to stifle any dissent.

Elections were due to be held in September and until now few had doubted that Mubarak would remain in control or bring in a successor in the shape of his 47-year-old son Gamal.

Father and son deny that Gamal is being groomed for the job.

The Egyptian government had urged people to act with restraint on Friday.


Agencies

Last Mod: 28 Ocak 2011, 16:07
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