Massive Demonstration Swells in Downtown Cairo

Saturday, 29 Jan 2011 08:47 AM

 

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CAIRO (AP) — A massive crowds of tens of thousands calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak is gathering in the streets and squares of downtown Cairo in a peaceful demonstration and they are vowing to defy a curfew that is to go into force in less than an hour.

There is only a light military presence — a few tanks — and soldiers are not intervening. No police were seen in the crowds and no clashes were reported.

One army captain joined the demonstrators, who hoisted him on their shoulders while chanting slogans against Mubarak. The officer ripped a picture of the president.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

CAIRO (AP) — Tanks guarded key government building around Cairo and the central square Saturday as protesters returned to the streets a day after massive and violent confrontations emboldened the movement demanding the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. The Cabinet resigned in the midst of rampant looting across the sprawling city and the death toll since protests began rose to 45.

Dozens of military armored personnel carriers and tanks as well as soldiers on foot deployed around a number of key government buildings in the capital, including state television and the Foreign Ministry after thousands of protesters besieged the two offices in Friday's riots. The military was protecting important tourist and archaeological sites such as the Egyptian Museum, home to some of the country's most treasured antiquities, as well as the Cabinet building. The pyramids on the outskirts of Cairo — Egypt's premiere tourist site — were closed by the military to tourists.

On Friday, protesters burned down the ruling party's headquarters complex along the Nile in one of the more dramatic scenes in a day of utter chaos.

The demonstrators did not appear satisfied with Mubarak's actions to address the discontent. The president of 30 years fired his Cabinet late Friday night and promised reforms, which many doubt he will deliver.

"What we want is for Mubarak to leave, not just his government," Mohammed Mahmoud, a demonstrator in the city's main Tahrir Square, said Saturday. "We will not stop protesting until he goes."

As the protests entered their fifth straight day, the military extended a night curfew imposed Friday in the three major cities where the worst violence has been seen — Cairo, Alexandria and Suez. State television reported the curfew would now begin at 4 p.m. and last until 8 a.m., longer than the 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. ban Friday night that appeared to not have been enforced.

Internet appeared blocked for a second day to hamper protesters who use social networking sites to organize. And after cell phone service was cut for a day Friday, two of the country's major providers were up and running Saturday.

After years of simmering discontent in this nation where protests are generally limited, Egyptians were emboldened to take to the streets by the uprising in Tunisia — another North African Arab nation.

But a police crackdown drew harsh criticism from the Obama administration and even a threat Friday to reduce a $1.5 billion foreign aid program if Washington's most important Arab ally escalates the use of force.

Stepping up the pressure, President Barack Obama told a news conference he called Mubarak immediately after his TV address and urged the Egyptian leader to take "concrete steps" to expand rights and refrain from violence against protesters.

"The United States will continue to stand up for the rights of the Egyptian people and work with their government in pursuit of a future that is more just, more free and more hopeful," Obama said.

Sen. John Kerry, a Democrat and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland, said Saturday he believes Mubarak must address the issues that matter to the people of Egypt.

"Dismissing the government doesn't speak to some of those challenges," he said. "I think he's got to speak more to the real issues that people feel," he said. "Dismissing the government doesn't speak to some of those challenges."

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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