Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Guardian: Protests in Egypt and unrest in Middle East – as it happened

Protests in Egypt and unrest in Middle East – as it happened
by Haroon Siddique, Paul Owen and Adam Gabbatt
Guardian (United Kingdom)


• Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters have clashed with police in Cairo and other cities in the largest demonstration in Egypt in a generation. Demonstrators want an end to the authoritarian president Hosni Mubarak's near 30 years of power.

• Three people have been killed in the protests. Reports say two protesters were killed in Suez, while a police officer died after being hit by a rock in Cairo. An Egyptian official said one protester died of respiratory problems after inhaling tear gas, while another was hit by a rock.

• Waves of protesters filled Cairo's central Tahrir Square, vowing to remain in place until the government fell, however police used tear gas and rubber bullets to clear the area at around 1am. Protesters fled to side streets and bridges across the river Nile, some pledging to continue protesting on Wednesday.

• The Egyptian government has reportedly blocked Twitter – which protester used to coordinate movements – and shut down mobile phone and internet networks. Elsewhere unconfirmed reports suggest Mubarak's son, Gamal Mubarak – who is unpopular in Egypt – has fled to the UK with other family members.

10.58pm: Tim Marshall, who is reporting in Egypt for Sky News, tweets:

@ITwitius Cairo Protestors split up and chased towards bridges and side streets. Sirens everywhere. Occasional tear gas still being fired.

10.19pm: My colleague Jack Shenker is still on the ground in Cairo, but reports that his phone access has been blocked, as has internet access in many areas. Here's his latest file from the Egyptian capital:

As midnight approaches in Cairo thousands of protesters are still occupying the Tahrir Square, vowing to remain in place until the government falls. News has reached Egyptians here of deaths in Suez and the capital, as well as unconfirmed reports that Gamal Mubarak – the president's wildly unpopular son and presumed heir apparent – has fled to London, and they appear more determined than ever to hold their ground.
"We will stay here all night, all week if necessary," said Youssef Hisham, a 25 year old filmmaker. "There are too many people on the streets for the police to charge – if they did, it would be a massacre. I came here today not as the representative of any political party, but simply in the name of Egypt. We have liberated the heart of the country, and Mubarak now knows that his people want him gone."
As fresh waves of protesters broke through police cordons to join the throng in Tahrir, a festival atmosphere took hold – groups were cheered as they arrived carrying blankets and food, and demonstrators pooled money together to buy water and other supplies. "The atmosphere is simply amazing – everyone is so friendly, there's no anger, no harassment, just solidarity and remarkable energy," added Hisham.
Drums were banged and fires started as night moved in; having established their lines, hundreds of security forces stayed put and kept their distance, although alarmingly police snipers were seen to be taking up position on nearby buildings. "They are waiting for numbers to dwindle, and then they will switch off the street lights and charge," warned Ahmed Salah, a veteran activist.
"We must hold Tahrir through the night and tomorrow, so that every corner of Egypt can take us as an inspiration and rise up in revolt," claimed Salah. "It's a matter of life and death now – what happens over the next 24 hours will be vital to the history of this country. It's a very emotional moment for me."
Pamphlets widely distributed amongst protesters declared that 'the spark of intifada' had been launched in Egypt. "We have started an uprising with the will of the people, the people who have suffered for thirty years under oppression, injustice and poverty," read the Arabic-language texts. "Egyptians have proven today that they are capable of taking freedom by force and destroying despotism."
They went on to call for the immediate removal of President Mubarak and his government, and urged Egyptians nationwide to begin a wave of strikes, sit-ins and demonstrations across the country until these demands were met. "Long live the struggle of the Egyptian people," the pamphlets ended.

9.29pm: The We are all Khaled Said Facebook group which I linked to earlier is reporting that the two civilians killed are Suliman Saber Ali and Mustafa Reda.

This is unconfirmed as yet.

8.27pm: An Egyptian interior ministry official has confirmed reports that two protesters and one policeman have been killed in demonstrations in Cairo and Suez.

The unnamed official, speaking to AP, said the two protesters were killed in Suez. The official said one of them had respiratory problems and died as a result of tear gas inhalation, while the other was killed by a rock thrown during the protest.

The policeman died during the protest in Cairo after being hit on the head by a rock, the official said.

8.10pm: Reuters is reporting that three people have been killed during protests in Egypt – two in Suez and one in Cairo.

State television also said a security officer died in central Cairo in a square where thousands of protesters had gathered and clashed with police.
A medical source in a Suez hospital said the two bodies had arrived there. Sources blamed rubber bullets.
An Interior Ministry official in Cairo said he had no information about the deaths in Suez but was checking.
The sources said more than 60 people in Suez suffered the effects of inhaling teargas.

7.20pm: The video journalist Mohamed Abdelfattah has posted some distressing tweets – using the Twitter for Blackberry app – from the scene of the protests, where he says he has been arrested. Here's some of his posts – all filed within minutes of each other and presented here in chronological order.

@mfatta7 Tear gas

@mfatta7 I'm suffocating

@mfatta7 We r trapped inside a building

@mfatta7 Armored vehicles outside

@mfatta7 Help we r suffocating

@mfatta7 I will be arrested

@mfatta7 Help !!!

@mfatta7 Arrested

@mfatta7 Ikve been beaten alot

7.01pm: There are reports that Twitter has been blocked in Egypt in a bid to quell the demonstrations. The protests have been organised in part throught Twitter and Facebook, but TechCrunch says the Twitter website and mobile site have been blocked in the country.

Demonstrators are still able to use third party applications – like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite – however, the US technology website reports. Facebook is still working in Egypt, however, with the group We Are all Khaled Said posting updates every fifteen minutes or so.

Khaled Said was an Egyptian activist who died in 2010, allegedly at the hands of police. One of the recent updates on the group reported that restaurants in Tahrir square – where thousands of protesters are gathered as night falls – are giving away free food to protesters.

To Read the Rest of the Timeline

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