Liveblogging Egypt: Day 2, Cont'd

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Tracking the ongoing demonstrations and government response

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7:00 p.m. EST / 2:00 a.m. Cairo Egypt's ambassador to the U.S. may be onto something. In an interview on CNN's The Situation Room: "There is a sense of crisis in the country."

6:45 p.m. EST / 1:45 a.m. Cairo A moving interview on what's at stake with protester Waseem Wagdi at the Egyptian Embassy in London today:


"I'm proud to be Egyptian today -- I can say this. And I am proud of all Egyptians today. ... I'm proud of all the Egyptians who are cleansing themselves of all remnants of fear."

6:40 p.m. EST / 1:40 a.m. Cairo Via Scott Lucas -- reports of sniper attacks on civilians in the capital:

Escalating story tonight of at least one sniper in the Ministry of Interior picking off protesters outside the building. Witnesses are saying 10 to 15 people have been shot dead and dozens have been wounded. Dr Muhammad Hassan tells Al Jazeera that dead protestors from the area are flooding the makeshift field hospital.

6:35 p.m. EST / 1:35 a.m. Cairo Agence France Presse says that the death toll in Egypt after five days of protests is now 102. According to Scott Lucas, Egyptian officials are saying that 62 have been killed and 2,000 injured today and yesterday: "Al Jazeera, from medical sources, reports 99 dead in the cities of Alexandria, Suez, and Cairo alone."


A Daily Dish reader translates this video:

Shot boy: The Army entered and shot us. They said we were being disruptive, but we were not; we were quiet. They shot at us with live bullets and rubber bullets. They were a lot of dead people and hurt people. I feel for them.

Voice behind cam: All in the last few hours?

Shot boy: Yes, all in the last few hours.

Voice: But we saw people happy and dancing on Army vehicles.

Shot boy: They were, and when they went inside the shooting started. They'd go in and out and shoot at us.

Then they say goodbye and the interview ends.

Mubarak and his party are put under curfew and not the Egyptian people. #Jan25less than a minute ago via Twitter for BlackBerry®


6:25 p.m. EST / 1:25 a.m. Cairo What's next? Reuters' Samia Nakhoul lines up some Qs&As:

Will the appointment of a vice-president end the unrest?

Mubarak's decision to pick Suleiman gave a clear indication that the Egyptian leader understands the magnitude of the social and political upheaval that has gripped his country.

Five days of unrest have forced Mubarak to make the long-delayed move of picking a deputy, signalling that his days in power may be numbered and that he may not run in a presidential election scheduled for September.

With protests keeping the momentum and his army and police failing to quell running battles in the streets, the pressure seems to have grown on the 82-old president from allies and aides to prepare for a transition.

Mubarak's legitimacy has all but evaporated under the overwhelming unrest in which 74 people have been killed and more than 2,000 injured.

It has also diminished the probability that he or his son Gamal, who has been lined up as a possible contender, would run in this year's presidential election.

"Mubarak has been damaged. I can't see how this is not the beginning of the end of Mubarak's presidency," said Jon Alterman, Director of the Middle East Programme for the Center of International Studies.

"It seems that his task now is to try and manage the transition past his leadership. I have a hard time believing that he will be the president in a year."

So far protesters responded to the announcement by stepping up anti-government demonstrators.

Witnesses reported seeing looters ransacking and setting public buildings on fire. Nothing less than Mubarak stepping down can quell the unrest, some said.

"The story of Gamal and Mubarak is over. Now, the regime is looking for who will rescue it. Mubarak, Omar Suleiman and Ahmed Shafiq know each other on a personal level," said Safwat Zayat, a military analyst.

"Their task in the coming months would be to ensure Mubarak's safety until the end of his reign. They will reorganise the regime's internal affairs."

What might happen on the streets?

The army has deployed tanks and troops alongside police forces but has so far refrained from using force.

Security forces however have warned that they could resort to tougher measures to impose order.

They said that those arrested carrying out acts of vandalism would be tried in military court.

Is this the beginning of the end for Mubarak?

The revolt is the most serious challenge to the Egyptian government since the 1952 coup that ended monarchy and inaugurated a procession of military strongmen.

It has shaken the government to its core, sent shock waves across the Middle East and alarmed Western and regional allies.

Mubarak's nomination of an influential military figure with strong diplomatic credentials as his possible successor speaks volumes about the authorities' resolve to ensure that power stays in the hands of military and security institutions.

Mubarak also secured the much-needed support from the army.

"Mubarak is gone, because of his illness, because of his age and because of what happened now in Egypt," said Bassma Kodmani, the head of Arab Reform initiative.

"This man will be gone by September 2011. He is not an option and everyone knows that and his inner circle knows that.

"Mubarak is buying time. He needs to buy time to provide the needed minimum stability and control of the country to allow for an orderly transition."

What did he learn from Tunisia?

Neither Mubarak nor his close aides, including Suleiman, want to see a Tunisia-style exit.

When Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali appeared on television after weeks of rioting, those watching the address said fear appeared to be his dominant emotion.

When Mubarak appeared on TV on Friday, the contrast could not be greater. His was a poised and confident performance. Yet, it did little to calm tens of thousands of protesters.

Seeking to avoid appearing weak, Mubarak delivered a tough message and showed his resolve to stay in power.

The message involved giving the military full control and acknowledging people's economic frustrations, as well as promises to help the poor and introduce political reform.

"Ben Ali made concessions and a day later he was out of the country. He didn't want to make the same mistakes. The regime has broader support than Ben Ali had in the last days," said Alterman.

"The military in Tunisia not only didn't defend the president but they helped push him out of the country. In Egypt, the military rather than push Mubarak is his next line of defence," he said.

"The appointment of Omar Suleiman is intended to send a message that if Hosni Mubarak leaves, the regime remains in place. It is not intended to mollify (the protesters). It is intended to show resolve."

6:10 p.m. EST / 1:10 a.m. Cairo According to the German news agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur, at least 19 planes have reportedly left Cairo, carrying elite Egyptian figures, including top business people -- among them, Egyptian telecom tycoon Naguib Sawaris.

Almost NO ONE is reporting: "Bedouin are now in control of the 2 towns closest to the Gaza Strip" http://bit.ly/eMxdss #egypt #jan25less than a minute ago via Echofon


6:05 p.m. EST / 1:05 a.m. Cairo Scott Lucas at EA World View: "Escalating story tonight of at least one sniper in the Ministry of Interior picking off protesters outside the building. Witnesses are saying 10 to 15 people have been shot dead and dozens have been wounded."

Meanwhile, here at The Atlantic:
5:50 p.m. EST / 12:50 a.m. Cairo Al Jazeera is saying Major General Mohammed El-Batran is dead. El-Batran is the head of the Investigative Unit at Fayoum Central Jail, 80 miles southwest of Cairo. Hundreds of inmates have reported fled the prison. Reports also indicate that a senior police officer has been kidnapped in Damietta, 120 miles north of Cairo. Update: Sultan Al Qassemi reports: "The name of the kidnapped senior police officer in Damietta is Tarek Hammad, his title is Head of Damietta Security."

The Guardian has updated its gallery of images from today's protests.

al Aswani "There is respect for the Army. I saw people in Army uniform chant along with protesters today"less than a minute ago via web


5:25 p.m. EST / 12:25 a.m. Cairo Human Rights Watch's Peter Bouckaert is blogging from Alexandria, reporting extensive looting in the low-income neighborhoods of Bokkla, Sidi Bishr, and Assafre::

  • Every street has men armed with sticks and knives to procte their shops and homes. they told us to stay out of poorer neighborhoods because security is very bad, lots of looting. Egyptians keep telling us they want to determine their own future, not one imposed by other countries, very much like Tunisia.
  • Reports that large numbers of criminals escaped or were released in alex during unrest, adding to looting and criminality.
  • Just got a call from a Popular Committee member in Sidi Basr neighborhood of Alexandria to say looting is going down because of Popular Committee members defending neighborhoods.a
  • We hear men armed with knives are looting empty homes in Bokkla. Locals are forming neighborhood committees to protect their homes. We were talking to the army when one group asked for help but the soldiers said they were overstretched and couldn't do anything today. Later we heard the army has asked people to coordinate the Popular Committee for Protection of Property and said reinforcements are coming tomorrow. Many people stuck in Alexandria far from their homes without transport home.

5:15 p.m. EST / 12:15 a.m. Cairo A doctor speaking with Al Jazeera says that the bodies of dead protesters from the area around the Ministry of the Interior are overwhelming a makeshift hospital.

5:10 p.m. EST / 12:10 a.m. Cairo From Danny Ramadan's TwitPic feed:

lion.jpg

The caption: "on Qasr Nil bridge the lion says: Game Over Mubarak." Ramadan is a Cairo-based journalist with the Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm.

5:00 p.m. EST / 12:00 a.m. Cairo Is it "chaos"? Via Robert Mackey at the NYT:

Speaking on CNN minutes ago, Mona Eltahawy, an Egyptian blogger and journalist appealed to the media to not fall for what she described as a Mubarak regime plot to make the protests in Egypt seem like dangerous anarchy. "I urge you to use the words 'revolt' and 'uprising' and 'revolution' and not 'chaos' and not 'unrest, we are talking about a historic moment," she said.

Moments later, as Ms. Eltahawy suggested that looting and damage to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo shown on Egyptian television was the work of "the police and the thugs of Hosni Mubarak," the lower third of the screen displayed the banner headline: "EGYPT IN CHAOS."

She added, "Egyptians want to fix Egypt, they don't want to destroy Egypt."

4:45 p.m. EST / 11:45 p.m. Cairo Al Jazeera reports gunfire being heard in Cairo from the direction of the Ministry of the Interior, as guards confronted protesters. The National Press Building is on fire. It's next to the ruling NDP's headquarters, which is also on fire. Reuters reports that the same is true of the Tax Authority offices, near the Interior Ministry. The military has called for civilians to protect their property, and further reports confirm that Cairo's neighborhoods are now being policed by local residents, some with kitchen knives and hunting rifles.

4:10 p.m. EST / 11:10 p.m. Cairo Remarkable tweet from CNN's Ben Wedeman:

My wonderful wife has handed out baseball bats, clubs, kitchen knives and tea to neighbourhood patrol.less than a minute ago via web


Also:

Just spoke to my dad. He and 15 others have setup a checkpoint underneath their building, id-ing everyone. #Egyptless than a minute ago via web


4:05 p.m. EST / 11:05 p.m. Cairo What's happening at the Egyptian Museum? According to Reuters, Cairo residents have joined soldiers to help guard it:

The museum in central Cairo, which has the world's biggest collection of Pharaonic antiquities, is adjacent to the headquarters of the ruling National Democratic Party that protesters had earlier set ablaze. Flames were seen still pouring out of the party headquarters early Saturday.

"I felt deeply sorry today when I came this morning to the Egyptian Museum and found that some had tried to raid the museum by force last night," Zahi Hawass, chairman of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said Saturday.

"Egyptian citizens tried to prevent them and were joined by the tourism police, but some (looters) managed to enter from above and they destroyed two of the mummies," he said. He added looters had also ransacked the ticket office.

The two-story museum, built in 1902, houses tens of thousands of objects in its galleries and storerooms, including most of the King Tutankhamen collection.

Al Jazeera reporter, just now: "The people are policing the streets. The people have basically become the police." Reports indicate the minister of the interior, who oversees the police force, has fled the country.

3:45 p.m. EST / 10:45 p.m. Cairo Demonstrations continue in the capital. The ruling National Democratic Party's (NDP's) headquarters is once again on fire, the flames apparently getting worse and now threatening the nearby Egyptian Museum. Witnesses confirm to Al Jazeera that plainclothes members of the state police are ransacking homes and shops, and indicates that young people in the neighborhoods are now forming ad hoc civilian defense groups. Since the beginning of the week, at least 100 people have been killed.

i just came now from Boulak El Dakrour in Cairo, Boulak Police Station is totally on fire & 3 police cars are burned down. #Egypt #Jan25less than a minute ago via web


3:40 p.m. EST / 10:40 p.m. Cairo Pro-democracy opposition leader Mohamed El Baradei says that he is "proud" of protesters and calls on Mubarak to resign. He tells Al Jazeera: "The first step in a democracy is a change of power."

3:25 p.m. EST / 10:25 p.m. Cario In Yemen, anti-government protesters have clashed with government supporters and police. The protesters are calling for the resignation of Yemem's president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in power for 32 years. According to Abu Dhabi's The National. In Jordan, Reuters reports that around 200 protesters have rallied outside the offices of Prime Minister Samir Rafai, chanting "Our Government Is a Bunch of Thieves" and holding banners that read "No to Poverty or Hunger."

Yemen: "opposition has staged massive protests... but so far there is no sign of a grassroots move for change" http://bit.ly/g86mxNless than a minute ago via web


3:15 p.m. EST / 10:15 p.m. Cairo Al Arabiya relays reports from witnesses that Bedouin protesters have stormed a police station and taken weapons in Arish in the Sinai.

Al Arabiya: Witnesses report bedouin protesters have stormed a Police Bureau & confiscated weapons in Arish (344 km NE Cairo pop 120,000)less than a minute ago via web


2:45 p.m. EST / 9:45 p.m. Cairo Cellular carrier Vodafone indicates that cellphone networks are now functioning again in Cairo. Seven Egyptians have reportedly been killed while trying to break into a police station in Beni Suef, 75 miles south of the capitial. Fewer protestors are in the streets now than earlier in the evening, while reports indicate an increased presence of organized gangs. It's apparently unclear whether these are plainclothes cops or civilians.

reports of more army patrols in Cairo and suburbs..in some places residents are cheering for them...#jan25 #Egyptless than a minute ago via web


ppl in neighborhoods wearing white bands to identify each other #jan25less than a minute ago via Mobile Web


2:35 p.m. EST / 9:35 p.m. Cairo Protesters continue to defy curfew; Al Jazerra reports indicate that the police are now nowehere to be found on Cairo's streets; looters are reportedly seizing private property throughout Egypt. The army has tried to enforce the curfew by clearing the city's center and, reports indicate, are now driving through the suburbs trying to protect affluent homes that looters are targeting. (From an army spokesman: "The Egyptian military is always obliged to protect Egypt and its people.") Tensions have developed sporadically between the army and some protesters, while reports indicate others peacefully chatting and drinking coffee with soldiers.

Atlantic contributor Shadi Hamid indicates to Al Jazeera that the protest are still without formal leadership but that Mohamed ElBaradei is likely to assume such a role, being the one figure best positioned to channel populist demonstrations into a coherent opposition movement.

In Washington, D.C., protestors are calling for Mubarak's resignation and an end to U.S. support for his government.

2:00 p.m. EST / 9:00 p.m. Cairo Today, police defending the Ministry of the Interior, which runs the police force and is a pillar of regime stability, have fired live rounds at protesters. Mubarak has appointed a new government, including the country's first nominal vice-president since 1981, intelligence chief and longtime regime loyalist Lieutenant General Omar Suleiman. Update: Ian Black has filed a profile of Suleiman at The Guardian:

Suleiman's appointment as vice-president carries two highly significant messages: for the first time since coming to power in 1981 Mubarak has a designated successor -- finally quashing speculation that it will be his son Gamal; and that successor has the full confidence of the military. Its role will now be crucial as the Egyptian drama unfolds.

Jane Mayer in The New Yorker:

... since 1993 Suleiman has headed the feared Egyptian general intelligence service. In that capacity, he was the C.I.A.'s point man in Egypt for renditions--the covert program in which the C.I.A. snatched terror suspects from around the world and returned them to Egypt and elsewhere for interrogation, often under brutal circumstances. ... beginning in the nineteen-nineties, Suleiman negotiated directly with top Agency officials. Every rendition was greenlighted at the highest levels of both the U.S. and Egyptian intelligence agencies.

There has been extensive looting throughout Egypt, notably at Cairo's Museum of Egyptian Antiquities (the Egyptian Museum), with widespread speculation that much of the looting has been done by plainclothes police officers, or "party thugs" associated with the Central Securit Forces, attempting to discredit the protest movement. The military has reportedly tried to stop the looting but has struggled on account of the chaos in the streets. Al Jazeera has run what instantly appears to have become iconic footage of a military officer standing on a tank, telling protesters that they are "honest men" and assuring them that he would gladly take off his uniform and join them, but he needs them to clear the streets after dark: "Demonstrate and express yourselves as much as you want, but at night clear the streets and let us handle the thugs."


While Suleiman now appears to be Mubarak's most likely successor, Mohamed ElBaradei -- former director deneral of the International Atomic Energy Agency, now the leading figure of the pro-democratic opposition -- has given a forceful speech this evening, after maintaining a relatively low profile over the past two days. Via Patrick Appel, over at the Dish: "We are seeking a change of regime. President Mubarak should step down. We should head towards a democratic state through a new government and free democratic elections .... The whole world should realize that the Egyptians are not going home until their demands are realized .... We are talking about taking down the Pharaonic dictatorship."

For more on the events in Egypt yesterday and through midday today EST, see Max Fisher's coverage here and here, with continuing coverage at the Daily Dish here.

Photo at top by KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images. Egyptians demonstrators demanding the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak march in central Cairo on January 28, 2011. The banners reads: "Yes to National Unity No to Terrorism, Muslims and Christians are One, Mosques and Churches are One."
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J.J. Gould is the editor of TheAtlantic.com. More

He has written for The Washington MonthlyThe American ProspectThe Moscow Times, The Chronicle Herald, and The European Journal of Political Theory. Gould was previously an editor at the Journal of Democracy, co-published by the Johns Hopkins University Press and the National Endowment for Democracy, and a lecturer in history and politics at Yale University. He has also worked with McKinsey & Company's New York-based Knowledge Group on global public- and social-sector development and on the economics of carbon-emissions reduction. Gould has a B.A. in history from McGill University in Montreal, an M.Sc. from the London School of Economics, and a Ph.D. in politics from Yale. He is from Nova Scotia. … Also: jjgould.com.

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