CNN’s Ben Wedeman is reporting from downtown Cairo that state buildings are being looted and torched, and civil authority appears to have dissolved into chaos.
Wedeman reported just before 3 p.m. ET that organized demonstrations had died down because there was no authority figure left in the area to demonstrate against.
“Any sign of state authority in much of downtown Cairo has disappeared,” he reported. “We have looters, and also people who are just spectators . . . We see no state authority figures whatsoever.”
The military, which took over from police, and whose presence is welcomed by most Egyptians, is patrolling the streets. But it does not appear to be taking action against the tens of thousands of citizens who have defied the curfew order of President Hosni Mubarak.
According to Wedeman, Mubarak’s party headquarters building has been looted and set fire. CNN is showing video of people cheering in the streets, without any apparent direction. The government does not appear to be in control or taking any action to restrain their movements.
Some images show citizens climbing onto tanks, and soldiers' efforts to repair them appear casual at best, if not altogether disinterested.
The scene of semi-anarchy was a drastic change from earlier in the day when police chased demonstrators through the streets, firing tear gas and rubber bullets and using water-gun tanks to disperse the crowd.
A Newsmax source in suburban Cairo, who for safety reasons is being identified only by the name Ahmed, tells Newsmax that most Egyptians are oblivious right now to Washington and other outside influences that are calling for restraint. The Mubarak regime cut off most Internet and all cell phone traffic to the country early Friday morning.
Because Ahmed is located several miles from the downtown area, he said he does not know what the circumstances are inside Cairo. He spent much of Friday praying and marching with protesters who are calling for an end to the Mubarak regime.
Ahmed, a high-tech business owner in his late 40s, says it appears to him that President Barack Obama has sided with the regime of President Hasni Mubarak and against the protesters, who have marched through the streets chanting “Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!”
“I’ve heard Obama several times, and his tone seemed as if he’s siding with the president [Mubarak] . . . he’s just putting it in a way that ‘If there’s something the Egyptians are asking for, Mr. President, please give it to them.’ But this is not what the people were asking for in the street for the past four or five days. People are asking for the president to go away. It’s a completely different view.
In fact, President Obama has called for restraint on both sides and restoration of the Internet and other channels used in social media.
“It is a very historic phase in the history of Egypt,” Ahmed says of his fellow protesters. “They are just thinking of their future, of getting down to a government and things like that.”
Ahmed spoke via landline and told Newsmax that it is quite possible the line has been tapped. Simply having the conversation could be dangerous, he said. But he added that the people of Egypt are no longer afraid of the government, and will no longer be intimidated.
“The National Democratic Party is headed by the president of Egypt,” he said. “You have no hope for any other party to compete in any elections.
"You have the line of poverty increasing every day; you have the economic conditions deteriorating every day; you have unemployment getting worse every day; you have health conditions terrible in this country; and we have absolutely no right to talk.
"Egyptians in the past 30 years lost their dignity. I don’t know how to explain dignity in that context. You can take anything from me. But if you take my dignity you have taken everything,” he added.
Ahmed told Newsmax that conditions in Egypt are so bad that citizens are afraid to visit a police station to report a crime for fear they will be insulted or abused. And he added that he saw no violence on the part of demonstrators that would justify Friday’s crackdown.
“I was personally affected by one of these [tear gas shells] that they tried to, in a desperate attempt, to let the people not gather in one area,” he said.
“They tried these water tanks, and put some chemicals in the water that would make you feel like you were going to faint. It was really inhuman but childish at the same time, because it didn’t stop anything.
“Can you believe it?” he added. “They are treating us like rabbits. They disconnected the cell phones completely. In 2011, we have no Internet, no cell phones, nothing. We can only connect through the landlines.”
Ahmed added that the role of Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel Prize winner and global nuclear watchdog, is controversial in Egypt because he has spent much of his time traveling outside of the country.
But Ahmed believes ElBaradei is a remarkable man who has used his international acclaim to bring attention to the plight of his fellow Egyptians, when he could have joined forces with the ruling powers and lived in luxury. The Mubarak regime has placed him under house arrest.
Ahmad also told Newsmax he has no fears for ElBaradei’s safety.
“I think he’s very well protected. They would think 100 times before harming someone like ElBaradei because he’s such an international figure.”
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