Police members remove uniforms — join protests!
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, in his capacity as military ruler, extended on Friday a curfew to Cairo, Alexandria and Suez, state TV reported, following countrywide protests calling for the president to step down. State TV had earlier said the curfew would be imposed nationwide.
Mubarak ordered the Egyptian military to aid the security forces in controlling the growing protests nationwide, the Egyptian state TV said.
“According to what some provinces witnessed in terms of riots, lawlessness, looting, destruction, attack and burning of public and private property including attacks on banks and hotels, President Mubarak decreed a curfew as a military ruler,” a state TV announcer said.
Tanks began deploying around Cairo, Alexandria and Ismailia and Suez, the official MENA news agency reported, after a day of violent clashes between police and protesters demanding an end to Mubarak’s rule.
Lieutenant General Sami Enan, chief of staff of Egypt’s armed forces, who was leading a military delegation for talks in Washington, cut short his visit and was on his way back to Egypt.
Shortly after announcing the curfew, protesters set fire to the headquarters of the ruling National Democratic Party in Cairo by night, the state TV confirmed.
NDP branch offices in several other cities around the country were also set on fire or attacked during the day, witnesses said.
There were unconfirmed reports that a number of police stations were set on fire in the Mediterranean governorate of Alexandria, in addition to setting ablaze a number of police armored vehicles.
Five protesters have been killed and some 870 others were wounded in demonstrations across greater Cairo on Friday, some in a serious condition with bullet wounds, medical sources said.
Police officers were also wounded, but numbers were not immediately clear, the sources added. There was no official confirmation of the figures.
Earlier on Friday, thousands of protesters gathered across Cairo and other cities including the eastern Egyptian hotspot of Suez and the Nile Delta cities of Mansoura and Sharqiya, calling for an end to “corruption” and “dictatorship,” Al Arabiya TV reported.
Protesters gathered near the presidential palace in Nasr City, outside of Cairo’s city center, according to Al Arabiya TV.
Police fired rubber bullets at thousands of protesters who had gathered outside the prominent al-Azhar mosque in central Cairo after Friday prayers, a Reuters witness said.
A number of police members removed their suits and joined protests against the regime, according to Al Arabiya.
The crowd threw stones at police lines and shouted slogans against President Hosni Mubarak, 82, and his son, Gamal, 47, who many Egyptian believe is being groomed for future office.
“The people want the regime to fall,” they shouted, alongside “No to succession”. They also cried “Down, Down, Hosni Mubarak.”
Nobel Peace Laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, who has called for the Egyptian president to quit, joined a peaceful march in Cairo after demonstrators near him clashed with police earlier in the day, witnesses said.
An Arabic television channel earlier said ElBaradei had been penned in by police where he had taken part in Friday prayers at a mosque. The protesters around him had thrown stones at police after they were sprayed with water.
“It’s peaceful, it’s peaceful,” some chanted in the later, calm protest. Some protesters shook hands with police.
Police were firing teargas in Mansoura, the witness from the the movement said.
Protesters shouted “Down, Down, Hosni Mubarak” and stamped on posters of the president after Friday prayers, witnesses said.
Vodafone group said all mobile operators in Egypt had been instructed to suspend services in selected areas, in what activists said was an effort to stop anti-Mubarak demonstrators from communicating and organising.
Egypt’s four main Internet service providers (ISPs) cut off international access to their customers in a near simultaneous and unprecedented move, an Internet monitoring company said.
“Virtually all of Egypt’s Internet addresses are now unreachable, worldwide,” said James Cowie of Renesys, a New Hampshire-based firm which monitors Internet routing data in real-time.
“In an action unprecedented in Internet history, the Egyptian government appears to have ordered service providers to shut down all international connections to the Internet,” Cowie said in a blog post.
“But every Egyptian provider, every business, bank, Internet cafe, website, school, embassy, and government office that relied on the big four Egyptian ISPs for their Internet connectivity is now cut off from the rest of the world,” Cowie said.
“Link Egypt, Vodafone/Raya, Telecom Egypt, Etisalat Misr, and all their customers and partners are, for the moment, off the air,” he said.
ElBaradei earlier had joined prayers involving about 2,000 people.
“The people want the end of the regime,” they started shouting once prayers were complete.
“Leave, leave, Mubarak, Mubarak, the plane awaits you,” they chanted in the protests, which were inspired by a revolt in Tunisia.
The Tunisian president of 23 years, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, was forced to flee to Saudi Arabia on Jan. 14 after a month of protests.
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.
Young protesters want an end to Mubarak’s authoritarian rule that has used heavy-handed security to crush dissenters who complain about unemployment, inflation and corruption which have created a huge gap between rich and poor.
The same complaints about corruption and poverty can be heard across the region and have prompted protests in countries like Algeria and Yemen.
“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.”
The 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”. The Brotherhood says it is being used as a scapegoat.