Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sudanese police, students clash in the capital

Sudanese police clashed with students Sunday as protests inspired by rallies in Egypt broke out in the capital.
The students protested at a university in Khartoum, chanting "No to high prices, no to corruption" and "Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan together as one."
About 100 students hurled rocks at police officers, who forced them back. Five people were arrested, authorities said.
Students resumed the protests and tried to engage bystanders as soon as police left the area.

Where in the world is Gamal Mubarak?

Actress Veena Malik takes on clerics over dress

A Pakistani film star is pitting herself against conservative clerics after wearing shorts and swimming with Baywatch star Pamela Anderson.

After attacks from religious leaders, Veena Malik, star of more than a dozen "Lollywood" (Lahore's Hollywood) movies, has called for women to be freed from conservative dress and the horror of honour killing.

"If a woman is cool with wearing a burka, she should wear a burka. If a woman, being a Muslim, wants to wear jeans, then she should wear jeans. That's your right," she said.

Malik, 32, whose former boyfriend Mohammad Asif, the Pakistani Test cricketer, was embroiled in a betting scandal last year, has become a champion for Pakistani liberals after appearing in Bigg Boss 4, a version of Big Brother, on Indian television.

The repeated showing on Pakistani television of two clips, one in which she is seen wearing shorts and another in which she hugs an Indian actor, prompted a backlash from clerics.In a fiery confrontation on a talk show last week, Malik defended herself against Mufti Abdul Qawi, who denounced her behaviour as immoral, despite admitting he had not seen the videos.

She retorted that he was attacking her because she was a woman. "I'm a Muslim woman, and I know my limits," she yelled at Qawi, who seemed too shocked by her fury to reply.

Malik said Pakistan's culture of fear had intensified since this month's murder of Punjab governor Salman Taseer.

"I'm not scared of anything. Being a woman, you will just go for me because I'm a soft target. But I won't take it, even if I die," she said.

The actress pledged to fight for women's rights. "Why aren't men being beaten? Have you ever heard they've thrown acid in a guy's face here in Pakistan?

"We should emphasise education and improving the literacy rate, but we're still stuck in 'Look at her, she's not wearing shalwar kameez (traditional dress), she's wearing jeans'. Please, get a life."

Egyptian Protests Expected Monday Despite Curfew

A scholar said Egyptians are dissatisfied with the appointment of a vice president and will continue with their protests Monday despite an imposed curfew to press home their demands for embattled President Hosni Mubarak to step down from office.
Howayda Mostafa, professor of mass communication at the University of Cairo, told VOA the protesters do not consider the installation of Vice President Omar Suleiman as the real democratic transformation in government that they are demanding.
“Today (Monday), they will continue to protest because the nomination of the vice president and all the (others) didn’t satisfy the protesters because they consider that this change doesn’t reflect a real change because both of them are very close to the regime. They (protesters) are expecting a real change in the regime itself,” Mostafa said.
“In addition, they asked the president to go out and to make real change; and they called for another regime which respects them and their aspirations; and they are calling for a new constitution; and they are calling for a government which reflects many political forces. So, they will continue to protest till they realize these changes.”
Meanwhile, Nobel laureate and Egyptian opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei told thousands of protesters in the capital’s Tahrir Square Sunday that they "cannot go back" after starting the uprising against Mr. Mubarak.
Mostafa said it’s impossible to predict whether the ongoing protests will force President Mubarak to step down.
“No one can be sure what will happen in the future. But, as we see now, this is the first time that the regime tried to listen to the people because it’s a real manifestation,” said Mostafa.
A crowd of some 5,000 people erupted in applause as Mr. El-Baradei called for an end to the Mubarak government so that a new Egypt of "freedom and dignity" can emerge. Cairo's Tahrir Square has become a hub of grassroots anti-Mubarak demonstrations.

Protesters also defied the government-imposed curfew in other cities, including the northern port city of Alexandria where thousands continued an hours-long march.

The government says the curfew will continue to be in effect on Monday. It also has extended the curfew one hour, starting at 3:00 pm local time (1300 GMT) instead of 4:00 pm (1400 GMT).

Media reports say police will begin returning to some streets in Cairo on Monday two days after withdrawing following violent clashes with protesters. Security sources say they will return to routine duties, but will not confront protesters.
Egypt's army has increased its presence, but has made no attempt to disperse demonstrators since being deployed. The army is popular and highly respected, while many Egyptians see the police force as corrupt and repressive.


Arab Elite Say Monarchies Are Safe From Unrest

DAVOS, SWITZERLAND — The unrest engulfing Egypt caught business and political leaders at the World Economic Forum off guard, but it became the hottest topic among the Arab elite here. Most of those leaders tuned in to the dramatic events using iPads and BlackBerrys and huddled to debate how the uprising would affect the rest of the Arab world.
“It’s all anyone’s talking about,” said Sheik Mohammed bin Essa al-Khalifa, who leads Bahrain’s economic development board and took part in many of the discussions.For the most part, the consensus was that President Hosni Mubarak would not easily relinquish his authoritarian grip in Egypt, an outcome that became more evident as he named Omar Suleiman, the country’s intelligence chief and a close ally, as his vice president on Saturday.
But the drive for change from tens of thousands of protesters means that a near monarchical regime cloaked in democracy will inevitably end, Arab executives here concluded.
“People are saying that Gamal Mubarak doesn’t have a chance of succeeding his father,” said a business executive who insisted on anonymity, referring to Mr. Mubarak’s son. “It’s a matter of when it will end, not if.”The events in Egypt were hardly mentioned during the official programs at the Davos forum, although a few leaders issued brief statements of concern before turning to other topics.Few of the executives present expected a revolution to spread across the oil-rich nations of the Gulf, where the governments are monarchies, which often do not create the types of expectations that accompany a democracy.Rulers in these countries use their oil wealth to invest in social stability by ensuring that their own people lead comfortable lives through subsidies on things like electricity, education and food.
“Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries are going to be spared because they are not democratic regimes,” said Jamal Khashoggi, the general manager of Al Waleed 24 News Channel. People in those countries “don’t feel cheated because there are no elections,” he said.
By contrast, he said, “I can feel the agony of an Egyptian when he sees how democracy is mocked.”
On Thursday, the Saudi prince Turki al-Faisal al-Saud had this answer when asked whether a wave of democracy across the Middle East might be even more destabilizing than a nuclear Iran: “I don’t know; in Saudi Arabia, we have neither nuclear weapons nor democracy.”
One question mark, some Arab executives said, may be Bahrain, the smallest economy in the region and a developing democracy.
Bahrain lacks the abundant oil wealth of many of its neighbors, and has moved to diversify its economy, invest heavily in education and create an unemployment safety net, the only one in the region. Shiites outnumber the Sunni population, which lost control of Parliament in elections last October.
For some, however, the situation is not comfortable enough.
“People think that we should follow this nanny state mentality of the government subsidizing everything,” Sheik Mohammed said. He noted that Kuwait had just paid $3,000 to every Kuwaiti citizen to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the country’s independence.

Referring to people in Bahrain, he said: “They don’t want to let go of electricity subsidies or other subsidies. But those who benefit most are members of Parliament, the business community, decision makers and to some extent, the press, which comes out against reforms.”
Instead, his country is funneling former subsidy money toward advanced education and the creation of jobs — one of the most important ingredients for social stability in the Arab world, where vast numbers of young people in particular are hampered by soaring levels of unemployment.
“What counts is jobs,” Sheik Mohammed said. “This is not just a problem in the Arab world; it’s a global issue that’s hitting the United States and Europe, too.”

Can Mubarak survive the revolt?

The protests in Alexandria - like those in Cairo - have been completely peaceful on Saturday and Sunday after the brutality of last Friday, when the police shot down and killed around 30 demonstrators in the city.Two of them were buried on Sunday, and many thousands of people turned out for their funeral service.
Some things are different in Alexandria - it still is a moderate city. But there is a noticeably stronger religious element here than there is in Cairo.
In other ways, though, things are very much the same: the anger against President Hosni Mubarak has the same intensity.And Mr Mubarak's tactics are the same as well: the army has now been given the task of dealing with the demonstrators, rather than the much more hated police who did the job until Friday's shootings.The army's tactics seem to be to let the demonstrations peter out rather than to stop them with force.So far here - as in Cairo and elsewhere - this system has worked, but the dangers are always present.
It seems clear that the Americans have warned President Mubarak urgently that there must be no more killings.

Can he survive with such vocal opposition in the streets?

He seems determined not to cut and run as President Ben Ali of Tunisia did, and the Americans can't want that either. The power vacuum it would create would be very dangerous indeed.

From the American point of view, the best thing that could happen would be a peaceful end to the protests, the retirement of Mr Mubarak and the continuation of some part (at least) of the system which he has created - shorn, hopefully, of its corruption.

It won't be easy and it won't appeal greatly to the demonstrators, who have condemned Mr Mubarak's entire political structure and want to bring it down.

Perhaps, though, stripping out his closest and older associates might just do the job.

So much of it depends on the demonstrators themselves: if they hold out - an easy transition to one of Mr Mubarak's associates will be much harder.

If, though, the shortages in the shops, the looting that has been going on and the general desire to get back to ordinary life bring a gradual end to the protest, then the system - if not the president himself - might survive in power.

Spotlight Again Falls on Web Tools and Change

Fear is the dictator’s traditional tool for keeping the people in check. But by cutting off Egypt’s Internet and wireless service late last week in the face of huge street protests, President Hosni Mubarak betrayed his own fear — that Facebook, Twitter, laptops and smartphones could empower his opponents, expose his weakness to the world and topple his regime.There was reason for Mr. Mubarak to be shaken. By many accounts, the new arsenal of social networking helped accelerate Tunisia’s revolution, driving the country’s ruler of 23 years, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, into ignominious exile and igniting a conflagration that has spread across the Arab world at breathtaking speed. It was an apt symbol that a dissident blogger with thousands of followers on Twitter, Slim Amamou, was catapulted in a matter of days from the interrogation chambers of Mr. Ben Ali’s regime to a new government post as minister for youth and sports. It was a marker of the uncertainty in Tunis that he had stepped down from the government by Thursday.

Tunisia’s uprising offers the latest encouragement for a comforting notion: that the same Web tools that so many Americans use to keep up with college pals and post passing thoughts have a more noble role as well, as a scourge of despotism. It was just 18 months ago, after all, that the same technologies were hailed as a factor in Iran’s Green Revolution, the stirring street protests that followed the disputed presidential election.

But since that revolt collapsed, Iran has become a cautionary tale. The Iranian police eagerly followed the electronic trails left by activists, which assisted them in making thousands of arrests in the crackdown that followed. The government even crowd-sourced its hunt for enemies, posting on the Web the photos of unidentified demonstrators and inviting Iranians to identify them.

“The Iranian government has become much more adept at using the Internet to go after activists,” said Faraz Sanei, who tracks Iran at Human Rights Watch. The Revolutionary Guard, the powerful political and economic force that protects the ayatollahs’ regime, has created an online surveillance center and is believed to be behind a “cyberarmy” of hackers that it can unleash against opponents, he said.

Repressive regimes around the world may have fallen behind their opponents in recent years in exploiting new technologies — not unexpected when aging autocrats face younger, more tech-savvy opponents. But in Minsk and Moscow, Tehran and Beijing, governments have begun to climb the steep learning curve and turn the new Internet tools to their own, antidemocratic purposes.

The countertrend has sparked a debate over whether the conventional wisdom that the Internet and social networking inherently tip the balance of power in favor of democracy is mistaken. A new book, “The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom,” by a young Belarus-born American scholar, Evgeny Morozov, has made the case most provocatively, describing instance after instance of strongmen finding ways to use new media to their advantage.

After all, the very factors that have brought Facebook and similar sites such commercial success have huge appeal for a secret police force. A dissident’s social networking and Twitter feed is a handy guide to his political views, his career, his personal habits and his network of like-thinking allies, friends and family. A cybersurfing policeman can compile a dossier on a regime opponent without the trouble of the street surveillance and telephone tapping required in a pre-Net world.

If Mr. Mubarak’s Egypt has resorted to the traditional blunt instrument against dissent in a crisis — cutting off communications altogether — other countries have shown greater sophistication. In Belarus, officers of the K.G.B. — the secret police agency has preserved its Soviet-era name — now routinely quote activists’ comments on Facebook and other sites during interrogations, said Alexander Lukashuk, director of the Belarus service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Last month, he said, investigators appearing at the apartment of a Belarusian photojournalist mocked her by declaring that since she had written online that they usually conducted their searches at night, they had decided to come in the morning.

In Syria, “Facebook is a great database for the government now,” said Ahed al-Hindi, a Syrian activist who was arrested at an Internet cafe in Damascus in 2006 and left his country after being released from jail. Mr. Hindi, now with the United States-based group, said he believes that Facebook is doing more good than harm, helping activists form virtual organizations that could never survive if they met face to face. But users must be aware that they are speaking to their oppressors as well as their friends, he said.

Widney Brown, senior director of international law and policy at Amnesty International, said the popular networking services, like most technologies, are politically neutral.

“There’s nothing deterministic about these tools — Gutenberg’s press, or fax machines or Facebook,” Ms. Brown said. “They can be used to promote human rights or to undermine human rights.”

This is the point of Mr. Morozov, 26, a visiting scholar at Stanford. In “The Net Delusion,” he presents an answer to the “cyberutopians” who assume that the Internet inevitably fuels democracy. He coined the term “spinternet” to capture the spin applied to the Web by governments that are beginning to master it.

In China, Mr. Morozov said, thousands of commentators are trained and paid — hence their nickname, the 50-Cent Party — to post pro-government comments on the Web and steer online opinion away from criticism of the Communist Party. In Venezuela, President Hugo Chávez, after first denouncing hostile Twitter comments as “terrorism,” created his own Twitter feed — an entertaining mix of politics and self-promotion that now has 1.2 million followers.

In Russia, Mr. Morozov noted, Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin has managed to co-opt several prominent new-media entrepreneurs, including Konstantin Rykov, whose many Web sites now skew strongly pro-Putin and whose anti-Georgia documentary about the Russia-Georgia war of 2008 went viral on the Web.

Mr. Morozov acknowledges that social networking “definitely helps protesters to mobilize.”

“But is it making protest more likely? I don’t think so.”

In Egypt, it appears, at least some activists share Mr. Morozov’s wariness about the double-edged nature of new media. An anonymous 26-page leaflet that appeared in Cairo with practical advice for demonstrators last week, The Guardian reported, instructed activists to pass it on by e-mail and photocopy — but not by Facebook and Twitter, because they were being monitored by the government.

Then Mr. Mubarak’s government, evidently concluding that it was too late for mere monitoring, unplugged his country from the Internet altogether. It was a desperate move from an autocrat who had not learned to harness the tools his opponents have embraced.

Al Jazeera a powerful counter to Mideast regimes

Al Jazeera television, banned in Egypt on Sunday, has often angered Arab governments with its coverage of dissent and served as a counterweight to regimes which accuse it of stirring dissent.

Egypt’s official MENA news agency said the outgoing information minister, Anas al-Fikki, ordered Al Jazeera’s closure in Cairo after its blanket coverage of anti-government protests sweeping the country.

The Doha-based Al Jazeera slammed the move as an attempt at “censoring and silencing the voices of the Egyptian people.”

In this time of deep turmoil and unrest in Egyptian society it is imperative that voices from all sides be heard,” the Arab satellite news channel said.

On Saturday, it broadcast an appeal from Yusef al-Qaradawi, a popular Egyptian-born television preacher and mentor of Egypt’s officially banned Muslim Brotherhood, urging President Hosni Mubarak to step down.

In Tunisia, a wave of protests earlier this month led to the ouster of president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali after 23 years in power, inspiring demonstrations in various other countries around the region, including Egypt.

“Arab governments accuse Al Jazeera of mobilising the street, and they are right, but this accusation is an honour for the channel,” said Abdel Khaleq Abdullah, a professor at United Arab Emirates University.

“There’s no doubt Al Jazeera was an important actor in the Tunisian revolution and in the events in Egypt,” he said.

Al Jazeera, which was founded in gas-rich Qatar in 1996, is no stranger to conflict with governments in the region.

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Thursday appealed to Qatar’s emir to “intervene with Al Jazeera to calm the situation and not resort to provocation, falsification of facts and exaggeration” in reports on protests in his country.

And in October 2010, Morocco’s communications ministry suspended Al Jazeera operations and withdrew the accreditation of its staff, following “numerous failures in (following) the rules of serious and responsible journalism.”

London-based analyst Abdel Wahab Badrakhan said Al Jazeera’s coverage of the protests in Egypt had been quite different in the first days from its coverage of the revolution in Tunisia.

“In Tunisia, Al Jazeera beat the street, but in Egypt, it followed,” he said.

“In the first days, it gave signals that it was not prepared to treat the Egyptian question the same way that it treated the uprising in Tunisia.”

While the protests were breaking out in Cairo, the channel gave precedence to its own controversial leaks on the Palestinian Authority’s position in peace negotiations with Israel, Badrakhan said.

On Tuesday, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat accused Al Jazeera of trying to provoke the Palestinians into “a revolution against their leaders in order to bring down the Palestinian political system.”

His accusation came after Al-Jazeera began releasing 1,600 documents known as “The Palestine Papers” which exposed far-reaching concessions offered to Israel during 10 years of closed-door peace talks.

Demonstrators in the West Bank town of Ramallah on Tuesday burned portraits of Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, while others torched Israeli flags with the Al-Jazeera logo on them.

Despite the ban on Sunday, Al Jazeera vowed to “continue its in-depth and comprehensive reporting on the events unfolding in Egypt.”

Mubarak`s chances

EVEN if Hosni Mubarak is able to survive the current countrywide rage, it is doubtful that things will remain the same for him and for Egypt. The dissolution of the cabinet has done little to calm violent protesters. They are expressing their anger not just against the president; they seem to reject the system in its entirety. No matter who he inducts into the new cabinet, they will be perceived to be collaborators and rejected by those now engaged in running battles with the security forces. What Mr Mubarak offered in his late night address was perhaps too little and too late. He spoke of `reforms` and offered to negotiate — but with whom? The most terrifying aspect of the popular revolt is the absence of a leader. Mohammad ElBaradei is hardly the man who could lead what is a spontaneous outburst of the people`s anger, triggered by Mr Ben Ali`s flight from Tunis. Mr Mubarak`s authoritarianism has given the Egyptian people neither economic opportunities nor a say in governance. What Egypt has witnessed in popular discontent is unprecedented. There were food riots in 2008, but the government managed to control them. Today, it is the urban middle class which is revolting against a system that doesn`t believe in accountability.

As always, Mr Mubarak`s foreign friends are either watching the situation with fingers crossed or have already tilted to the people`s side. Even though President Barack Obama walked a tightrope, the implications of his speech must be disturbing for the Egyptian president. While he urged Mr Mubarak to deliver on his promises, and asked the crowds to express themselves peacefully, he also told his friend that “violence will not address the grievances of the Egyptian people”.

For Egyptians, foreign advice is of no consequence. Ultimately, it is Mr Mubarak`s ability to defuse the people`s fury that will matter, because the demonstrations are gaining in intensity. The shockingly low turn-out in the last parliamentary election seems to indicate the people have lost faith in the kind of `demo- cracy` that was on offer. Mr Mubarak has also indicated he will take part in the presidential election for a sixth term, and this has served in no small measure to fuel popular anger. So far the army has obeyed orders, and even though like the ruling elite it welcomes America`s average $2bn annual dole-out, it is widely believed the generals dislike the president`s son, Gamal. If the demonstrations continue to spread in intensity, we are not sure how long the army will continue to support what may appear to many as a tottering regime.

Mohamed ElBaradei mobbed in Tahrir Square

Europe's Arabs view Middle East chaos in awe, fear

Arabs living in Europe say they have watched events unfold in Tunisia and Egypt with a mixture of awe and fear as governments crumble and a breakdown of order threatens their friends and relations.
Egyptians in London spoke of frantic calls from their family in which they were told of armed criminal gangs roaming the streets after massive protests erupted against the government of President Hosni Mubarak.
"My cousin is calling me, shouting SOS. Criminals, gangs are everywhere, breaking into homes. I'm beside myself with worry. I haven't slept," said student Raouf Ghali, 41.
In Egypt, protesters defied police and the army to turn out in their thousands across the country for a sixth day to demand the end of Mubarak's 30-year rule, and in Tunisia mass protests in recent weeks have toppled the president.
Millions of Arabs have emigrated to Europe from the Middle East in recent decades, many to escape stifling autocratic rule, war or limited economic opportunity -- precisely the conditions that have sparked the demonstrations.
Some hoped the protests would spread across the region.
"I hope all Arab people rise up and take their rights. If one man can bring down government in Tunisia, then there's hope for Morocco," said a Moroccan restaurant worker on London's Edgeware Road, who gave her name only as Sanaa, 27.
The protests that brought down Tunisian leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali on January 14 erupted after a young man set himself on fire because police seized his grocery cart.
In other parts of Europe, some emigres said they welcomed the prospect of change in the Middle East but feared Islamist extremists could use any ensuing power vacuum to seize power.
"The worst case scenario is of an Islamist takeover of Egypt where they break the peace treaty with Israel and set back women's' rights by decades," said Albert Turquier, 65, who moved to France from Lebanon in 1972.
"There is also the cautionary lesson learned from the Iranian revolution where a popular uprising gave way to a repressive regime."
Others in London said they wanted Mubarak deposed, but were pessimistic that conditions in Egypt would improve. Poverty and unemployment have been endemic for decades, with many struggling for food.
"Democracy and a better future in Egypt? If I could, I'd get all my family out of there and bring them to the UK. Talk is cheap, and we hear a lot of it," said Mustapha Mahmoud, 27.
Egyptians living in Greece also were pessimistic.
"We are very sad and anxious about the way things have developed," said Yousef Samuel, head of the Association of Egyptian Workers of Greece.
"It began as a movement ... to demand a better life. But as it developed, criminal elements crept in."
Police have melted away in some areas, a move some Egyptians say is a government plot to instill fear among the people to keep them at home and away from the protests.
"The police sat on our heads for 30 years, the state spending billions on them. Now that the people need them, where are they? They were only there to protect a corrupt government," said Egyptian restaurant worker Mohammed Ismael, 46, in London.
In the oil-exporting Gulf region, where many Egyptians work to help their families back home make ends meet, were torn between wanting to head home to be with their relatives and the necessity to hold on to their livelihoods abroad.
"I am worried and want to go back," said Jaballa, 24, outside a waterfront lounge in Dubai.
"But if I go I will lose my job. We all hate the president and the government, but we don't want to risk anything in Dubai, because we wouldn't find a better life if they send us back to Egypt."

Egyptian reform leader calls on Mubarak to go

Egypt's most prominent democracy advocate took up a bullhorn Sunday to call for President Hosni Mubarak to go, speaking to thousands of protesters who defied a third night of curfew to mass in the capital's main square. Fighter jets streaked low overhead and police returned to the streets as Egypt's government tried to show its authority over a situation spiraling out of control.
Nobel Peace laureate Mohammed ElBaradei addressed the crowds in Tahrir Square, where up to 10,000 protesters gathered during the day. Even when he spoke hours after the 4 p.m. curfew, they numbered in the thousands, including families with young children, addressing Mubarak with their chants of "Leave, leave, leave."
"You are the owners of this revolution. You are the future," ElBaradei told supporters. "Our essential demand is the departure of the regime and the beginning of a new Egypt in which every Egyptian lives in virtue, freedom and dignity."
In a further sign of Mubarak's teetering position, his top ally the United States called for an "orderly transition to democracy."
Asked if Washington supports Mubarak as Egypt's leader, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton avoided a direct answer, telling Fox News in an interview, "We have been very clear that we want to see a transition to democracy, and we want to see the kind of steps taken that will bring that about."
Now in their sixth day, the protests have come to be centered in Tahrir, or Liberation, Square, where demonstrators have camped out since Friday despite the curfew, which officials announced would be moved up to 3 p.m. starting Monday. Protesters have shrugged off Mubarak's gestures of reform, including the sacking of his Cabinet and the appointment of a vice president and a new prime minister — both seen as figures from the heart of his regime.
The military was taking the lead in restoring order after police virtually vanished from the streets on Friday without explanation after initially clashing with protesters. The disappearance of the police opened the door for a wave of looting, armed robberies and arson in cities around the country.
The anarchy was further fueled when gangs of armed men attacked at least four jails across Egypt before dawn Sunday, freeing hundreds of criminals and Muslim militants. Gangs of young men with guns and large sticks smashed cars and robbed people in Cairo.
The official death toll from the crisis stood at 97, with thousands injured, but reports from witnesses across the country indicated that the actual toll was far higher.
The military, which enjoys far greater support among the public than the police, fanned out in tanks and armored vehicles around the city starting Sunday morning. At Tahrir Square, they appeared to cooperate with protesters in keeping the demonstrations orderly, and there were many scenes of affection between soldiers and protesters, who allowed troops to use their mobile phones to call home or offered them cigarettes.
"I am glad they are continuing to protest. God willing, he (Mubarak) will go," said one Air Force captain in uniform who drove by the edge of the square.
One banner held by protesters summed up the dilemma facing the military, proclaiming, "The army must chose between Egypt and Mubarak."
Minutes before the start of the curfew, at least two jets roared over the Nile, making several passes over the square, dropping lower every time and setting off alarms in parked cars. Some protesters clapped and waved to them while others jeered.
Police on Sunday began reasserting their presence, moving back into some Cairo neighborhoods. In some spots, they were jeered by residents who chanted anti-police slogans.
Interior Minister Habib al-Adly said he was ordering security forces to return to the streets in Cairo and elsewhere to work in tandem with army troops to restore order.
"It is necessary that the police role is quickly restored and that there should be cooperation in the field with the armed forces ... to defend the presence and future of the nation."
The police move could put an end to lawlessness and looting, which stunned many Cairenes and which the military struggled to control. But it could also lead to renewed clashes with protesters, among whom hatred of the black-garbed security forces runs deep — though it appeared the police would not be deployed in Tahrir Square.
In a sign of the distrust, many protesters were convinced the police intentionally allowed the looting in an attempt to spread chaos that would undermine the political demonstrations.
"Those people who are looting are from the police, they want to scare us and make us stay home and not participate in the demonstrations," said Walid Ambar, an engineer who joined the crowds in Tahrir along with his 2-year-old son and pregnant wife. "This is a campaign to scare us. But I came here to join the demonstration and I will not leave until Mubarak leaves."
In a bid to show he remained in control, the 82-year-old Mubarak met with his defense minister and Omar Suleiman, the military intelligence chief whom he named as vice president over the weekend, to review the security situation. Later Sunday, a tired looking Mubarak was shown on state TV conferring with Suleiman and the new prime minister-designate Ahmed Shafiq, like Mubarak a former air force officer.
An unprecedented Internet cutoff remained in place for a third day after the country's four primary Internet providers stopped moving data in and out of the country early Friday in an apparent move by authorities to disrupt the organization of demonstrations. Egyptian mobile-phone networks were back up but with text-messaging widely disrupted.
The lawlessness, uncertainty, and indications of an attempted exodus from Cairo were gravely damaging Egypt's economy, particularly tourism, which accounts for as much as 11 percent of the country's gross domestic product.
Banks were closed on orders from Egypt's Central Bank, and the country's stock market was shut on what is normally the first day of the trading week.
On the first day of trading across the Mideast after a weekend of protests and violence, nervous investors drove stocks down sharply. Crowds of foreigners filled Cairo International Airport, desperate and unable to leave because dozens of flights were canceled and delayed.
The U.S. Embassy in Cairo told its citizens in Egypt to consider leaving the country as soon as possible, and said it had authorized the voluntary departure of dependents and non-emergency employees, a display of Washington's escalating concern about the stability of its closest Arab ally.
ElBaradei's appearance in Tahrir Square underscored the jockeying for leadership of the protest movement, which erupted seemingly out of nowhere to shake the nation, inspired in part by protests in the nearby Arab nation of Tunisia that forced out its autocratic president.
ElBaradei, the former head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog, has gained a following among young secular democracy activists with his grassroots organizing. But some demonstrators dismissed him as an expatriate long removed from the country's problems.
"Many people feel he loves prizes and traveling abroad," said Muhammad Munir, 27. "He's not really one of the people."
The outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, which wants to establish an Islamist state in the Arab world's most populous nation, also appeared to moving for a more prominent presence after largely lying low when the protests first erupted. Sunday evening, the presence of overtly pious Muslims in the square was conspicuous, suggesting a significant Muslim Brotherhood representation. Hundreds performed the sunset prayers. Veiled women prayed separately.
A senior Brotherhood leader, Essam el-Erian, told The Associated Press he was heading to Tahrir Square to meet with other opposition leaders. Though the Brotherhood has made some statements suggesting it was willing to let ElBaradei act as pointman in any negotiations, el-Erian also suggested the movement wants a major role. He told one Egyptian TV station that the Brotherhood is ready to contact the army for a dialogue, calling the military "the protector of the nation."
Egyptian security officials said that overnight armed men fired at guards in gun battles that lasted hours at the four prisons including one northwest of Cairo that held hundreds of militants. The prisoners escaped after starting fires and clashing with guards.
Those who fled included 34 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose lawyer, Abdel-Monaem Abdel-Maqsoud, told The Associated Press they were among scores rounded up by authorities ahead of large anti-government demonstrations on Friday. The escapees included at least seven senior members of the group.
State TV later reported that 1,000 escaped inmates were recaptured.
In the southern city of Assiut, officials said riot police stormed the city's main prison to quell a prison riot, using tear gas and batons against inmates. An Associated Press reporter saw army tanks were deployed outside the prison, on bridges straddling the Nile and at the police headquarters.
The pan-Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera said that Egyptian authorities ordered the closure of its Cairo news hub overseeing coverage of the country's massive street protests, denouncing the move as an attempt to "stifle and repress" open reporting.
The Qatar-based network has given nearly round-the-clock coverage to the unprecedented uprising against Mubarak and had faced criticism by some government supporters and other Arab leaders as a forum to inspire more unrest.

Egypt shuts down Al Jazeera bureau

Network's licences cancelled and accreditation of staff in Cairo withdrawn by order of information minister.

Jets fly low over Cairo's demonstrators

Cairo protesters stand their ground...Mohamed ElBaradei joins protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

Egyptian air force fighter planes buzzed low over Cairo, helicopters hovered above and extra troop trucks appeared in a central square where protesters were demanding an end to President Hosni Mubarak's rule.

State television said that a curfew has been imposed in the capital and the military urged the protesters to go home.

But the thousands of protesters in Tahrir Square choosed to stay on Sunday.

The show of defiance came as Egypt entered another turbulent day following a night of deadly unrest, when looters roamed the streets in the absence of police.

Opposition groups in the country have called for national unity, and Mohamed Elbaradei, a leading opposition figure, is said to be heading to Tahrir Square to join the protests.

The Muslim Brotherhood movement also backed Elbaradei to negotiate with the government, a leading member said on Sunday.

ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, came back to Egypt on Thursday.

Fighter jets swoop over Cairo in show of force

Fighter jets swooped low over Cairo Sunday in what appeared to be an attempt by the military to show its control of a city beset by looting, armed robbery and anti-government protests.
Minutes before the start of a 4 p.m. curfew, at least two jets appeared and made multiple passes over downtown, including a central square where thousands of protesters were calling for the departure of President Hosni Mubarak.
Police could be seen returning to some streets nearly two days after virtually disappearing, creating a security vacuum only partially filled by the presence of army troops backed by tanks at key sites around this city of 18 million people.
After days of escalating chaos, gangs of armed men attacked at least four jails across Egypt before dawn, helping to free hundreds of Muslim militants and thousands of other inmates. Gangs of young men with guns and large sticks smashed cars and robbed people in Cairo.
Banks were closed on orders from Egypt's Central Bank, and the stock market was shut on what is normally the first day of the trading week. Markets across the Middle East dropped on fears about the instability's damage to Egypt's economy, and the region's.
An unprecedented Internet cutoff remained in place after the country's four primary Internet providers stopped moving data in and out of the country in an apparent move by authorities to disrupt the organization of demonstrations blaming Mubarak's regime for poverty, unemployment, widespread corruption and police brutality.
The official death toll from five days of growing crisis stood at 74, with thousands injured.
The U.S. Embassy in Cairo told its citizens in Egypt to consider leaving the country as soon as possible, and said it had authorized the voluntary departure of dependents and non-emergency employees, a display of Washington's escalating concern about the stability of its closest Arab ally.
Private tour groups and corporations began trying to evacuate their clients and expatriate employees. But dozens of flights were canceled and delayed and crowds filled Cairo International Airport, desperate and unable to leave.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the U.S. expects that the protests in Egypt will lead to free and fair elections as part of an "orderly" transition to "real democracy."
"I want the Egyptian people to have a chance to chart a new future," she said. "It's not a question of who retains power ... It's how are we going to respond to the legitimate needs and grievances expressed by the Egyptian people."
Israel's prime minister told his Cabinet that he was "anxiously following" the crisis, saying in his first public comments on the situation that Israel's three-decade-old peace agreement with Egypt must be preserved.
After a night of violence in many cities across Egypt, the army sent hundreds more troops and armored vehicles onto the streets starting Sunday morning. Truckloads of hundreds of police poured back into Cairo neighborhoods Sunday afternoon and took up positions on the streets.
In some spots, they were jeered by residents who chanted anti-police slogans and demanded that they only be allowed to deploy jointly with the military.
State television showed Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi in green fatigues on a central Cairo street, speaking with soldiers and civilian onlookers.
Then, as the curfew loomed, the jets roared over the Nile and toward Tahrir Square in the heart of Cairo, where thousands of protesters have gathered each day to demand the end of the administration.
The jets made several passes over the square, dropping lower every time and setting off alarms in parked cars.
Some protesters clapped and waved to them while others jeered.
"This is terrorism, they are trying to scare the people with the planes and the tanks. They are trying to make people afraid and leave the square," said Gamal Ahmed, a 40-year-old air-conditioning technician.
Lines of army tanks jammed a road leading into Tahrir, and a military helicopter hovered overhead. Soldiers working with civilian protester volunteers checked IDs and bags of people arriving to join the marches.
Mubarak, 82, perpetuated the overriding role of military men in Egyptian politics by naming his intelligence chief, former army general Omar Suleiman, to the new role of vice president on Saturday. Ahmed Shafiq, the outgoing civil aviation minister and Mubarak fellow former air force officer, was named prime minister.
State TV Sunday showed images of Mubarak during what it said was a visit to the country's military command center. The president looked somber and fatigued in his first public appearance since he addressed the nation late Friday to promise reform and annouce the dismissal of his Cabinet.
The brief footage appeared designed to project an image of normalcy.
Egyptian security officials said that overnight armed men fired at guards in gun battles that lasted hours at the four prisons including one northwest of Cairo that held hundreds of militants. The prisoners escaped after starting fires and clashing with guards.
Those who fled included 34 members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest and best organized opposition group. The Muslim Brotherhood's lawyer, Abdel-Monaem Abdel-Maqsoud, told The Associated Press the 34 were among scores rounded up by authorities ahead of the large anti-government demonstrations on Friday. The escapees included at least seven senior members of the group.
The security officials said several inmates were killed and wounded, but gave no specific figures. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to share the information with the media.
The officials told The Associated Press that army troops were hunting for the escaped prisoners, in some cases with the help of the police. State television also showed footage of what it said was dozens of prisoners recaptured by the army troops, squatting on dirt while soldiers kept watch over them.
In the southern city of Assiut, officials said riot police stormed the city's main prison to quell a prison riot, using tear gas and batons against inmates. An Associated Press reporter saw army tanks were deployed outside the prison, on bridges straddling the Nile and at the police headquarters.
Thousands of Alexandrians met to pray in downtown Alexandria, a Mediterranean port city that is a stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood. After prayers, the crowd marched towards the city's old mosque to pray for the souls of those who died in the protests.
Egyptian mobile networks were back up after days of cutoffs but with text-messaging widely disrupted. Blackberry Messenger and mobile Internet services were operating sporadically.
The pan-Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera said that Egyptian authorities ordered the closure of its Cairo news hub overseeing coverage of the country's massive street protests, denouncing the move as an attempt to "stifle and repress" open reporting.
The Qatar-based network has given nearly round-the-clock coverage to the unprecedented uprising against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and had faced criticism by some government supporters and other Arab leaders as a forum to inspire more unrest.