Clashes erupt in Egyptian anti-government protests

Arab World Materials 28 January 2011 16:49 (UTC +04:00)

Violent clashes erupted Friday between the police and anti-government demonstrators during a day of mass protests across Egypt, DPA reported.

Security used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse crowds in Cairo's Nasr City neighbourhood and in the northern city of Alexandria.

Thousands of protesters defied a government ban and took to the streets for a fourth day in a row demanding more democracy, the ouster of President Hosny Mubarak and greater employment opportunities.

In an echo of developments in Tunisia, where demonstrations led to the ousting of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, hundreds of protesters gathered outside Mubarak's presidential palace in the capital's Heliopolis neighbourhood, Al-Arabiya reported.

There were also reports that protesters had stormed the headquarters of the ruling NDP party in Ismailiya.

Meanwhile, authorities in Giza were preventing opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei from leaving a mosque where he had been attending Friday prayers.

ElBaradei, who arrived in Egypt on Thursday, has indicated he would help head a transitional government should Mubarak step down.

Qatari-based broadcaster Al Jazeera also said one of its journalists had been beaten and several other foreign journalists were injured.

In Berlin, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle urged the authorities not to use force against demonstrators.

"Those who try to violently suppress the desire for freedom will harvest extremism," Westerwelle said. "Germany is on the side of democracy, human rights and civil rights," he said, calling on Cairo to respect the right to demonstrate.

Authorities had earlier banned traditional Friday players in some of the city's largest mosques and arrested a number of activists belonging to the opposition Muslim Brotherhood.

Heavy security was in place around the city's central Tahir Square, where protesters had been gathering over the past days, with road access blocked and the local metro station closed for the day.

Telecommunication was severely curtailed, with many internet sites blocked and mobile phone services interrupted.

Vodafone Egypt released a statement saying all mobile phone operators in the country had been "obliged" to suspend services.

Outsiders were experiencing difficulties connecting to landline numbers in Cairo, while only some anti-government websites with servers located abroad were working, but their operators had difficulties updating them.

"Our journalists cannot update the content of our website because we do not have any links to the internet any more," an employee at the website youm7 said.

Activists have been using social networking sites and twitter to organize the protests.

Egypt's protesters hope to emulate the Tunisian uprising that toppled Ben Ali on January 14, after nearly 23 years in power.