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  • 1/31/2011

Egyptian uprising expands despite military flyover


Fighter jets swooped low over Cairo on Sunday in what appeared to be an attempt by the Egyptian military to assert control over the city.

Minutes before the start of a 4 p.m. curfew, at least two jets made multiple passes over downtown, including a central square where thousands of Egyptians were calling for the departure of President Hosni Mubarak, AP reported.

As the anti-government uprising raged into a sixth day, foreign governments began evacuating their nationals from Egypt amid a wave of jail breaks, killings, and increasing lawlessness.

Tourists, expatriates, and anxious Egyptians crowded Cairo’s airport seeking airline seats out of the country, while the United States, Iraq, and India said they were organizing special flights for their nationals, AFP reported.

President Mubarak’s friends in Washington also authorized the departure from Egypt of embassy families, and like a raft of other countries, advised U.S. nationals to avoid travel to Egypt.

The warnings came as thousands of protesters crowded Cairo’s Tahrir Square for a sixth straight day demanding Mubarak’s ouster, scoffing at his reform promises which even U.S. officials said on Sunday fell well short of what is needed to end the crisis.

“Mubarak, go to Saudi Arabia,” the crowd shouted, encouraging the leader in power for 30 years to follow deposed Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali into exile.

With fears of insecurity rising and a death toll of at least 125, thousands of convicts broke out of prisons across Egypt overnight after they overwhelmed guards or after prison personnel fled their posts.

An AFP correspondent saw 14 bodies in a mosque near Cairo’s Abu Zaabal prison, which a resident said were of two police and the rest convicts.

Shots rang out in the neighborhood and a resident said that all the prisoners had escaped and many had been killed.

“There are many, many more bodies,” said a resident who asked not to be named.

Troops set up checkpoints on roads to riot-hit prisons, stopping and searching cars for escaped convicts.

Among those who escaped were senior members of Egypt’s main opposition movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as business tycoons and foreign investors.

With rampant pillaging in six days of deadly protests, many Egyptians believe that the police have deliberately released prisoners in order to spread chaos and emphasize the need for the security forces.

“The government wants the people to think that Mubarak is the only option faced with the chaos,” said young demonstrator Sameh Kamal.

Groups of club-carrying vigilantes have deployed on Cairo’s streets to offer protection from looters amid growing insecurity as the Arab world’s most populous nation faces an uncertain future.

Youths handed over to the army those they suspected of looting, with the police, who had been fighting running battles with stone-throwing protesters in the first days of the demonstrations, hardly visible.

Many petrol stations are now running out of fuel, motorists said, and many bank cash machines have either been looted or are no longer working. Egyptian banks and the stock exchange were ordered closed on Sunday.

In other developments on Sunday:

An Islamist leader said that Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition groups have charged leading dissident Mohamed ElBaradei with negotiating with Mubarak’s regime.

Egypt’s outgoing information minister Anas al-Fikki ordered the closure of Al Jazeera’s operations in Egypt after the pan-Arab satellite network gave blanket coverage to the anti-government protests.

The Rafah crossing between southern Gaza and Egypt was closed, a Palestinian official told AFP, adding that Egyptian officials had left the border following the spiraling political unrest.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for “restraint, non-violence and respect for fundamental rights” in Egypt, addressing the African Union summit that opened in Addis Ababa.

Stock markets in several Persian Gulf countries, where many leading firms have interests in Egypt, slumped Sunday, while the bourse in Cairo did not even open.

Source: tehrantimes.com

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