...

Protesters gather in Egypt for sixth day of protests

Arab World Materials 30 January 2011 18:30
Egyptians gathered for a sixth day of anti- government protests in the centre of Cairo and other cities Sunday, though in smaller numbers than previous days and under heavier military surveillance, dpa reported.
Protesters gather in Egypt for sixth day of protests

Egyptians gathered for a sixth day of anti- government protests in the centre of Cairo and other cities Sunday, though in smaller numbers than previous days and under heavier military surveillance, dpa reported.

An effort was being made to tie the demonstrations to the funerals of people killed during disturbances over the weekend, scheduled for Sunday afternoon.

At least 150 people have died so far, medics reported, in the protests calling for the ouster of President Hosny Mubarak and his interior minister.

The president - who spent the morning visiting troops, according to state television - has reshuffled some top positions.

Importantly, he appointed his former intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, as vice president - a post that has been vacant for nearly three decades - but many who headed to the streets said it was not enough.

"Mubarak is disconnected from the Egyptian people and he has to go," said Ahmed Fathi, a shopkeeper in Cairo. "Anyone is better than him."

Some areas of major cities were without protection by security forces, after a long night which saw looting and reports of other violent acts, including attacks on clinics and prisons.

The unrest has caused foreigners to flee in droves, with Western and Arab states saying they will arrange special flights to evacuate their citizens. A great crush was being reported at Cairo airport and the military had taken to the streets of tourist resort town Sharm el-Sheikh in the Sinai.

Residents in big cities formed neighbourhood watch groups overnight, in an effort to protect their families and property from looters.

Some of these groups even arrested vandals, with police again failing to make an appearance and the army declining to intervene directly, urging citizens to defend themselves.

The looting has caused divisions within Egypt, as concern for safety has roused some citizens to confront protesters, demanding an end to the chaos. Some expressed hope for the police to return, after the law enforcement bodies abandoned the streets on Friday, the first day of heavy clashes.

German Press Agency reporters on the streets were told by residents that some of those found looting and destroying shops were from the police. It was not known, however, whether these were acting on their own, or whether they were possibly following orders.

There was damage to artifacts at the Egyptian Museum, including to items from the King Tutankhamun exhibit, but it remained limited to one section of the building, officials said. Rogue police officers were blamed.

In the chaos, thousands of prisoners were said to have escaped detention facilities in different areas of the country, dozens were reported dead and at least one high ranking prison official was killed.

Internet connections across most of the country remained shut off and satellite television broadcaster al-Jazeera said its Arabic service was forced by the government to close its Cairo bureau.

Egyptians said the widely-watched channel - accused of backing the protests - was being blacked out in parts of the country. Also, journalists with Western television stations said they were being ordered not to film protests.

It remained to be seen if the shifts at the top combined with the impact of looting and street violence would affect the demonstrations or if angry crowds would continue to demand radical economic and political reforms in the vast and largely poor country of 80 million people.

Meanwhile, Western governments and human rights groups are urging Egypt not to use live fire and harsh tactics against demonstrators, amid concern in Washington and elsewhere for the stability of a key Middle East ally.

Tags:
Latest

Latest