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Fri 28 Jan 2011 03:51 PM

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Egyptian police clash with protesters in Cairo

Ban appeals for calm; protesters concerned about poverty and corruption

Egyptian police clash with protesters in Cairo
Egyptian demonstrators demanding the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak burn tires in Suez, east of the capital Cairo on January 27. On January 28, the protesters stamped on posters of the president in demonstrations after Friday prayers (Getty Images)

Egyptian police clashed with angry protesters who had promised a "Friday of Wrath" in Cairo to demand the end of President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule in a wave of unrest gripping the Middle East.

Police fired teargas and water cannon at protesters who shouted "Down, Down, Hosni Mubarak" and stamped on posters of the president in demonstrations after Friday prayers, witnesses reported.

Hundreds of anti-Mubarak protesters took to the streets in central Cairo and other cities, including Suez, they said. Protesters threw stones and dirt at the police.

Security forces had mounted a clampdown in Cairo and blocked Internet sites prior to the demonstrations.

Emboldened by this month's revolt that toppled the leader of Tunisia, Egyptians have staged mass protests since Tuesday and hundreds have been arrested.

Members of the Muslim Brotherhood, including at least eight senior officials of the opposition group and its main spokesmen, were rounded up overnight. A security source said authorities had ordered a crackdown on the group.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed on Friday for Egypt's leaders and its people not to let violence escalate.

"All concerned, people or leaders, should ensure that the situation in that region, particularly in Egypt should not lead to further violence," Ban said at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

Young protesters want an end to President Mubarak's authoritarian rule that has used heavy handed security to crush dissenters who complained about unemployment, inflation and corruption which has created a huge gap between rich and poor.

The same complaints about corruption and poverty cross the region and prompted protests in countries like Algeria and Yemen as well as the demonstrations what led to the end of Tunisian President Zine al Abidine Ben Ali's 23-year rule.

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

Ahead of Friday's protests, trucks of police lined side roads leading to Tahrir, a square in Cairo where there were some of the biggest demonstrations on Tuesday and some of the most violent clashes.

At the Mostafa Mahmoud mosque in the upscale Cairo suburb of Mohandiseen, police and security officers lined up preventing cars from crossing towards the mosque.

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

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

The government has accused the Muslim Brotherhood of planning to exploit the youth protests for its "hidden agendas", while the Brotherhood says it is being used as a scapegoat.

Security forces shot dead a protester in the north of the Sinai region on Thursday, bringing the toll to five.

Joe Bloggs 8 years ago

Egypt is one of the most corrupt countries not just in the Arab world, but in the whole world.

If you ask ANY Egyptian living in the Gulf about their homeland and the answer is the same. No jobs, no money, no democracy, nothing - that's why so many hard-working Egyptians live and work in the Gulf, they have no choice.

Egypt is a beautiful country, with many places to go, to see, to do, amazing history and real culture, but it seems that nothing has really been built or developed since the Pyramids!! Such a shame for beautiful country.

I am totally with the brothers that want to rise up and stand against tyranny, corruption, torture and arrogance. The time has come, as it also has in many other countries.

Tarek 8 years ago

Like Saddam Hussain, Hosni Mubarak is terrible to his people but feared by Iran. The absence of a strong Egypt means Iran is the sole power in the region. This will prove to be disastrous.

Joe Bloggs 8 years ago

Tarek, Iran has too many enemies in the region and across the World to become too strong.

Who knows, maybe this is all part of a plan to make Iran stronger so that they can be taken down in the future?

Abderrahman 8 years ago

Tarek, You miss the point. It is not about Iran, but merely about basic people's needs such as food and affordable shelter. The gov is totally corrupted from top to bottom. Time has come for Mubarak to step down and give the power back to the people. Egypt has a huge number of intelectuals that can carry the country forward including your geopolitical concerns in the region. Democracy is badly needed and dignity is on the horizon.

Hats of to the Egyptian people and good luck in the will for sure succeed.

Telcoguy 8 years ago

True Egypt is in really poor shape, but is dangerous to believe that democracy will fix it. Elections will not bring food, voting polls will not create jobs, and I'm very skeptical about the alternatives as intellectuals make lousy politicians usually, there are no strong institutions to keep things working smoothly, and wealth will still be concentrated on a few hands.

I understand that people are fed up with current situation, but the risk of disappointment is huge. Things seldom change over night, at least for the better. Will people be able to wait 5, maybe 10 years until things improve? The risk is that once people take to the streets once they may decide to do it more often plunging the country into a state of permanent upheaval.

Let see.