Tuesday, January 25, 2011

2 protesters, 1 policeman killed in Egypt protests

By MAGGIE MICHAEL, Associated Press Jan. 25, 2011

CAIRO – An Egyptian Interior Ministry official says two proteters and one
policeman have been killed in the anti-government demonstrations in Cairo
and several other cities.

The two protesters were killed during a demonstration in the city of Suez.
The official says one of them had respiratory problems and died as a
result of tear gas inhalation. The other was killed by a rock thrown
during the protest.

The policeman died during the protest in Cairo. The official says he was
hit in the head by a rock.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized
to release information to journalists.

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

CAIRO (AP) — Thousands of anti-government protesters, some hurling rocks
and climbing atop an armored police truck, clashed with riot police
Tuesday in the center of Cairo in a Tunisia-inspired demonstration to
demand the end of Hosni Mubarak's nearly 30 years in power.

Police responded with blasts from water cannons and set upon crowds with
batons and acrid clouds of tear gas to clear demonstrators crying out
"Down with Mubarak" and demanding an end to Egypt's grinding poverty,
corruption, unemployment and police abuses.

Tuesday's demonstration, the largest Egypt has seen for years, began
peacefully, with police showing unusual restraint in what appeared to be a
calculated strategy by the government to avoid further sullying the image
of a security apparatus widely criticized as corrupt and violent.

With discontent growing over economic woes, and the toppling of Tunisia's
president still resonating in the region, Egypt's government — which
normally responds with swift retribution to any dissent — needed to tread

But as crowds filled downtown Cairo's Tahrir Square — waving Egyptian and
Tunisian flags and adopting the same protest chants that rang out in the
streets of Tunis — security personnel changed tactics and the protest
turned violent. Around 10,000 protesters packed the vast square, the
Interior Ministry said.

The sight of officers beating demonstrators had particular resonance
because Tuesday was also a national holiday honoring the much-feared

In Egypt, discontent with life in the autocratic, police state has
simmered under the surface for years. It is the example of Tunisia,
though, that appeared to be enough to push many young Egyptians into the
streets for the first time.

"This is the first time I am protesting, but we have been a cowardly
nation. We have to finally say no," said 24-year-old Ismail Syed, a hotel
worker who struggles to live on a salary of $50 a month.

Demonstrators attacked a water cannon truck, opening the driver's door and
ordering the man out of the vehicle. Some hurled rocks and dragged metal
barricades. Officers beat back protesters with batons as they tried to
break cordons to join the main group of demonstrators downtown.

Protesters emerged stumbling from white clouds of tear gas, coughing and
covering their faces with scarves.

Some had blood streaming down their faces. One man fainted. Police dragged
some away and beat a journalist, smashing her glasses and seizing her

Crowds also marched to the headquarters of Mubarak's National Democratic
Party, shouting, "Here are the thieves."

After remaining silent throughout the day, Egypt's government on Tuesday
night called for an end to the protests. The Interior Ministry, which
controls the security forces, said authorities wanted to allow the
protesters the chance to express their opinions and accused the crowds of
"insisting on provocation."

"Some threw rocks at police ... and others carried out acts of rioting and
damage to state institutions," it said.

In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Egypt's
government, a key U.S. ally in the Middle East, is stable despite the
outpouring. Clinton said Egyptians have the right to protest, but urged
all parties to avoid violence.

At one point Tuesday, the protesters seemed to gain the upper hand,
forcing a line of riot police to flee under a barrage of rocks. One
demonstrator climbed into a fire engine and drove it away.

"I want my 3-year-old child to grow up with dignity and to find a job just
like the president," said 50-year-old Eid Attallah, who works as a driver.

He said he had heard about the planned protests from friends but didn't
expect them to be so big.

Many expressed similar surprise.

"We are fed up; this is just enough," said Sayid Abdelfatah, a 38-year-old
civil servant who marched with an Egyptian flag. "Tunisia's revolution
inspired me but I really never thought we would find such people ready to
do the same here."

During a lull in the clashes, lines of protesters bowed in unison to
perform the sunset prayer as police stood aside. Several thousand remained
in the streets after dark, and many promised to stay through the night in
the square, steps away from parliament and other government buildings.

Organizers issued demands for Mubarak and his government to resign, for
parliament to be dissolved and for a national unity government to be

To the north, in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, thousands of
protesters also marched in what was dubbed a "Day of Rage" against Mubarak
and lack of political freedoms under his rule.

Like the Tunisian protests, the calls for the rallies in Egypt went out on
Facebook and Twitter, with 90,000 saying they would attend. Organizers
used the site to give minute-by-minute instructions on where demonstrators
should go in an attempt to outmaneuver the police.

By late afternoon, access to Twitter appeared to have been blocked.

In another parallel with Tunisia, the protests drew energy in large part
from the death of one person: a young Egyptian man named Khaled Said whose
family and witnesses say was beaten to death by a pair of policemen in
Alexandria last year.

His case has become a rallying point for Egypt's opposition. Two policemen
are on trial in connection with his death.

Tunisia's protests were also sparked by the death of one man: a poor
Tunisian vegetable vendor who set himself in fire to protest corruption.

Last week, several people in Egypt — and elsewhere in the Middle East and
North Africa — set themselves on fire in apparent attempts to copy his

Mothers carrying babies also marched and chanted, "Revolution until
Victory!" while young waved signs reading "OUT!" that were inspired by the
Tunisian protestations of "DEGAGE!" Men sprayed graffiti reading "Down
with Hosni Mubarak."

"We want to see change just like in Tunisia," said Lamia Rayan, 24, one of
the protesters.

Some passers-by dismissed the protests, saying a few thousand of Cairo's
18 million people coming out on the streets was not nearly enough to force

"This is all just a waste of time," said Ali Mustafa Ibrahim, who works at
a cigarette stand. "These are a bunch of kids playing cat and mouse. ...
It's just going to create more problems and more traffic in the city."

Nearly half of Egypt's 80 million people live under or just above the
poverty line set by the United Nations at $2 a day. Poor quality
education, health care and high unemployment have left large numbers of
Egyptians deprived of basic needs.


Hadeel Al-Shalchi, Hamza Hendawi and Tarek el-Tablawy in Cairo and Bradley
Klapper in Washington contributed to this report.

No comments: