Protesters return in their hundreds, defying a curfew, to say sacking the cabinet is far from enough
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak refused on Saturday to bow to demands that he resign after ordering troops and tanks into cities in an attempt to quell an explosion of street protests against his 30-year rule.
Demonstrators were still out in the streets in the early hours of Saturday morning, as were looters. Parts of Cairo looked like a war zone, filled with smoke, rubble and the choking smell of tear gas.
Mubarak dismissed his government and called for national dialogue to avert chaos after a day of battles between police and protesters angry over poverty and autocratic rule. Medical sources said at least 24 people had been killed and over a thousand injured in clashes in Cairo, Suez and Alexandria.
Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Laureate, was briefly penned in by police after he prayed at a mosque in the Giza area but he later took part in a peaceful march with supporters. Arabiya television said later police had "asked" him to stay home but this could not be confirmed.
"It is not by setting fire and by attacking private and public property that we achieve the aspirations of Egypt and its sons, but they will be achieved through dialogue, awareness and effort," he said in a televised address, his first public appearance since the protests began four days ago.
The unprecedented unrest has sent shock waves through the Middle East, where other autocratic rulers may face challenges, and unsettled global financial markets on Friday. US President Barack Obama said he had spoken with Mubarak and urged "concrete steps that advance the rights of the Egyptian people".
The army, deployed for the first time in the crisis, cleared Cairo's Tahrir square towards midnight. Shortly after Mubarak's speech, protesters returned in their hundreds, defying a curfew. They said sacking the cabinet was far from enough.
"It was never about the government, by God. It is you (Mubarak) who has to go! What you have done to the people is enough!" said one protester.
Shots were heard in the evening near parliament and the headquarters of the ruling National Democratic Party was in flames, the blaze lighting up the night sky. Cars were set alight and police posts torched.
A Reuters team saw a gang of looters storm into a bank and carry out the safe.
More than half of the dead in Friday’s clashes were reported in Suez, the eastern city which has been ground zero for the most violent protests over the past four days.
Mubarak, 82, has been a close ally of Washington and beneficiary of US aid for decades, justifying his autocratic rule in part by citing a danger of Islamist militancy. The Muslim Brotherhood opposition, however, appears to have played little role in the unrest.
The protests were triggered by the overthrow two weeks ago of Tunisian President Zine al Abidine Ben Al Ben Ali. Street protests in Tunis focused on similar issues of poverty and political repression. Demonstrations have also flared in Yemen, Algeria, Sudan and Jordan in recent weeks.
"There will be new steps towards democracy and freedoms and new steps to face unemployment and increase the standard of living and services, and there will be new steps to help the poor and those with limited income," Mubarak said.
"There is a fine line between freedom and chaos and I lean towards freedom for the people in expressing their opinions as much as I hold on to the need to maintain Egypt's safety and stability," he added.
Obama also called on the Egyptian government to halt interference in access to the Internet, mobile phone service and Internet social networks that have been used by protesters.
"I want to be very clear in calling upon the Egyptian authorities to refrain from any violence against peaceful protesters," he said.
Anthony Skinner, associate director of political risk consultancy Maplecroft, said Mubarak's conduct was reminiscent of that of Ben Ali in his final days in power.
"Mubarak is showing he is still there for now and he is trying to deflect some of the force of the process away from himself by sacking the Cabinet. We will have to see how people react but I don't think it will be enough at all. I wouldn't want to put a number on his chances of survival -- we really are in uncharted territory."
Markets were hit by the uncertainty. US stocks suffered their biggest one-day loss in nearly six months, crude oil prices surged and the dollar and US Treasury debt gained as investors looked to safe havens.
"I think the next two to three weeks, the crisis in Egypt and potentially across the Middle East, might be an excuse for a big selloff of five to ten percent," said Keith Wirtz, president and chief investment officer at Fifth Third Asset Management in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Many protesters are young men and women. Two thirds of Egypt’s 80 million people are below 30 and many have no jobs. About 40 percent of Egyptians live on less than $2 a day.
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.
I am shocked at the situation in Egypt. Iraq was and Egypt still is the beating heart of Arab nationalism and the last bastion of Arab resistance to Iran. God forbid if this regime goes, one of the fallouts and ramification is further consolidation of Iran as a sole power in the region. The future is bleak indeed.
The only two major hurdles to Iran's expansion were Iraq and Egypt. Iran does not fear US as much as it feared Iraq and fears Egypt. Iran is closely monitoring events in Egypt and is preparing itself for a new era without a strong and influential Egypt. It is time for all Arabs to unite and rise above their petty differences, otherwise the whole Arabian world will become the playground of Iran.
The wind of change is blowing
This not good, not good at all. The whole world especially the Gulf cannot afford this situation in Egypt. The vaccum caused by Egypt will be filled by none other than Iran an arch-enemy of this region. We should have seen it coming and done something about it.
So, Egyptian have to tolerate oppression, deprivation of their human rights, theft of their wealth and the possibility of death and injury if they oppose their own government as long as the whole world is OK with the Egyptian regime? What....Egyptians have spoken, out with Evil, in with DEMOCRACY, no matter what it is, Egypt and the whole world are witnessing the birth of freedom. Freedom is not free. God Bless Egypt and the honorable Egyptian people.
I am surprised that the comments are about Iran and ignoring that these people are left high and dry with no food or dignity.
You have to remember, this revolution is not purely political, it is economical!!!
Pegged to the dollar, the country reached an unprecedented inflation point. Add to that the high level of corruption and you get a very angry audience. Again, this could happen in any country..including Iran where price inflation is very high as well.
US and the Western world will have to deal with the new middle east transformation.
The Egyptian revolution will produce a well needed democracy there.
Go Go Egyptians.....
Iran, an arch enemy of this region?? I'd say your paranoia is getting the best of you.
I do feel sorry for the Egyptians. On one hand, they need to up rise against a dictator. On the other hand, their country is going to fall in the hands of the Islamic regimes, same as what happened in Iran 30 years ago.
So I guess this just a little bit of history repeating.
I love this, see the names? Sam, Kevin and Patrick all names which have nothing to do with the middle east but just like to stir up things by mentioning Iran and diverting thoughts to things that don't exist. making Iran the big bad wolf doesn't work any more guys, its old news. Iran couldn't do what you say basically because it doesn't have the means anymore. If you have a war with Iran at the moment they wouldn't last a week. they don't have the planes the tanks and the rest of it and the ones they do will only work for a few days anyway. so please leave middle east business with middle eastern people and let them have the freedom that you took away.
wow AL somebody hit a raw nerve with you here. You attack people on the basis that anyone without a "middle east" name cannot comment?
What does Iran have to do with the price of halvah? Egypt is not a colony of the big powers anymore, the sooner the people' s will there is answered the sooner they will be able to get on with their lives.