CAIRO: Tens of thousands of Egyptians joined protests on what was dubbed the “Friday of Anger” calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak who imposed a curfew from 6 pm Friday to 7 am Saturday nationwide following reports that the army was deployed in Downtown Cairo.
Egyptian military vehicles were seen deployed on the streets of Cairo on Al-Jazeera, first cheered by demonstrators until state TV said the army would help the police.
The body of one protester was carried through Suez after clashes with police who withdrew from central areas of the eastern city leaving some main streets to demonstrators, a Reuters witness said.
“They have killed my brother,” shouted one of the demonstrators.
Throughout the day, witnesses saw dozens of Egyptians bruised, bloodied and fainting in Cairo during protests on Friday and Al-Jazeera said at least one person was killed. One Reuters witness saw blood streaming from people with head wounds and others collapsing to the ground, though the causes were not immediately clear in the chaotic streets. Other witnesses around the country gave similar descriptions.
The internet via Egyptian servers was blocked across the country shortly after midnight Thursday as well as mobile and Blackberry services being cut off. There were rumors that landlines would be cut off as well.
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 organizing, Reuters reported.
Demonstrations turned violent, with protesters clashing with police and shouting: “Down, down Mubarak.”
Angry protesters gathered in a neighborhood near a residential palace in Cairo belonging to Mubarak, Reuters reported. “The people want the end of the regime,” people chanted in protests around the country, as well as “Leave, leave, Mubarak, Mubarak, the plane awaits you.”
After a mass Friday prayer attended by dissident Mohamed ElBaradei, police used teargas and water cannon to disperse at least 2,000 protesters outside the mosque in Giza square, on the fourth day of nationwide anti-government protests, AFP reported.
Al-Jazeera reported that Egypt’s Elbaradei was not allowed to leave the area by police, according to Reuters. Afterwards, AP reported that security officials say police have put ElBaradei under house arrest. Police stationed outside his suburban Cairo home told him he cannot leave the house after he joined tens of thousands of protesters in the capital Friday.
The channel also reported that opposition leader Ayman Nour was struck in the head by a rock and was taken to intensive care.
Around 2,000 protesters marched across Kasr El-Nil Bridge attempting to head to Tahrir Square but were stopped by security.
Protests that began in Downtown Cairo immediately after Friday prayer near Falaki Square were immediately met with a storm of teargas from security forces, launched on the around 200 hundred protesters gathered at the time.
The crowd grew as more protesters joined eventually reaching around 5,000-10,000 people spread out between Falaki, Mohmaed Farid and Talaat Harb streets. Security forces continued to fire tear gas, chasing protesters around side streets and alleyways, whereupon they would regroup and march again.
When the crowd reached Talaat Harb, more tear gas was fired and then security began charging at people.
A brief period of calm was followed by the gathering of 10,000 protestors who marched from Talaat Harb with a goal to reach Tahrir Square as security trucks drove through the crowd.
Protesters, however, rarely responded to the violence they faced, except during one charge towards Tahrir when some threw stones and hit security trucks with sticks.
When they were sent back, around 20 or 30 security forces were caught in the middle of protestors but were not harmed. The protesters attempted to charge Tahrir one final time but to no avail.
Thousands of citizens protested outside Al-Azhar Mosque, chanting anti-government slogans following Friday prayers. Security forces managed to disperse them using teargas, but protesters were able to gather again and march in Azhar Street towards Attaba where they were joined by hundreds more from side streets and alleyways.
“The people want the end of the regime,” protesters chanted loudly, as well as “Down with Mubarak.” Another group protested on Al-Azhar Bridge blocking it in the middle, shouting “Void!” referring to the current government.
Dozens of police trucks were stationed around Attaba Square and in the streets leading to Al-Azhar. Security forces used teargas to disperse protesters who retaliated by throwing stones and rocks.
In Port Said Street in Moski neighborhood, several plain clothes policemen used batons to force protesters back. A storeowner told Daily News Egypt that they were thugs recruited by the police.
An eyewitness said the mosque was filled with police forces during prayers. The police did not allow cars to take the Tahrir Square from Sixth of October Bridge.
Al-Azhar bridge ramp was blocked and many cars were seen going in reverse after orders from police. Almost all shops in the main commercial streets around the area including Al-Moaez, Al-Azhar and Port Said closed down.
Tens of thousands also took to the streets from the site of the central Mostafa Mahmoud mosque in Mohandiseen, heading to Tahrir square. There were no violent clashes but a Daily News Egypt reporter present at the scene said that security sprayed an acidic liquid at the protestors, who included men, women and children.
The march began with relatively little security presence but when protesters reached Galaa Square, they were met with heavy numbers of riot police who began firing teargas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.
Several protesters were injured and some had trouble breathing.
Protesters also set fire to a central security truck and a fire broke out in a nearby apartment and was put out by a fire truck.
Protesters then started a sit-in Galaa Square and began chanting.
By 4 pm they were joined by protesters from Agouza and Dokki in a huge gathering and vowed to stay there for as long as it takes to protect the protesters in Tahrir.
At 5 pm in Agouza, security was heavily using teargas on hundreds of protesters, firing from the bridge towards Balloon Theater. In the area, an eyewitness said protesters burned tires and threw glass as the situation grew chaotic. The eyewitness reported seeing Molotov cocktails being used by protesters, a few of whom broke a taxi and tore down a National Democratic Party poster.
Decked out in goggles, masks and Pepsi cans, the upper middle class crowds were joined by actors Amr Waked, Khaled El Sawy and Khaled Abol Naga.
“We want to change the regime if not through elections, then through protests,” Said Abol Naga.
El-Sawy said “we don’t want the president anymore and we don’t want his son. Thirty years are enough.”
Heidi Rady, a mother and housewife from the affluent Sixth of October City said “I’m not afraid. If we are afraid who will free the country? People are starving.”
Next to her was an employee who says earns a salary of LE 500 per month. “I have four kids,” he said. “How am I supposed to provide for them. That is why I’m protesting today.”
An eyewitness told Daily News Egypt that a protest started in Imbaba after Friday prayers, setting off from Talaat Harb Street near the popular Prince restaurant, and people in the hundreds started marching calling on families to join in. Many did while others from balconies threw bottles of water and onions, believed to counter the effect of teargas, to the protesters.
The march passed by Imbaba Police Station where protesters were let through by police there, who reportedly cheered them on. Protesters were met by a security block near Kitkat square, where they fired teargas separating the protesters.
Chaos abounded and frustrated protesters smashed the pavement and began hurling rocks at the police, which contained them by closing off all the roads out of Imbaba. Protesters took refuge in alleyways.
Eyewitnesses also told Daily News Egypt that a peaceful protest of more than 2,000 was marching from Maadi’s agricultural road, heading towards Dar El Salam. Witnesses cited no visible security presence.
By 5 pm, a reporter for Daily News Egypt in the Mediterranean city Alexandria said that the residence of Alexandria Chief of Police was burned and looted.
Earlier throughout the day riot police fired teargas and rubber bullets to disperse a large anti-regime protest, a correspondent for Daily News Egypt said. Some clashes erupted after around 4,000 to 5,000 people finished Friday prayers at a mosque near the central Raml railway station.
As soon as the prayers were over, worshippers stood up and shouted “God is greatest” followed by “We don’t want him,” referring to veteran President Hosni Mubarak, the target of deadly protests that have rocked Egypt since Tuesday.
A 2,000 strong protest leaving Sidi Gaber Mosque joined one of the largest recorded protests of the day on the Cornich, attended by some 30,000 people who stopped to perform afternoon prayers on Alexandria’s main boulevard.
Police fired teargas at the crowd and warning shots using rubber bullets, with some protesters retaliated by throwing rocks.
However, a source speaking to Al-Jazeera from Alexandria said that in some areas, policemen refused to fire teargas canisters at the protesters.
Reporters also cite the general feeling of solidarity, with those not joining the protests helping the protesters by giving them bottles of water and Coca Cola to counter the teargas.
Two police stations were reportedly taken over by protesters in Suez by 5 pm on Thursday, reported Al-Jazeera.
In Suez governorate, thousands of protesters rallied in the main streets, clashing with the security forces.
Some of the protesters attacked police armored cars, setting one on fire. Police failed to disperse the rallies using teargas.
A medical source previously told Daily News Egypt that 190 citizens were injured during protests in Suez, 17 were hit by live rounds, including a 12-year old; three of the 17 were killed.
A Daily News Egypt reporter said hundreds joined in an unprecedented protest in Upper Egypt’s Edfu after a member of the Muslim Brotherhood asked those attending Friday prayers at the Shubban Muslimeen Mosque to go out and protest peacefully. After being surrounded by a security cordon, the protesters were left to march.
But within one hour protesters began clashing with police, throwing bottles when they were prevented from coming close to a police station. Reporting by Tamim Elyan, Heba Fahmy, Amna El-Tawil, Abdel Rahman Hussein, Marwa Al-A’sar for Daily News Egypt and additional reporting by Mina Reda and Mona Seif.
Egyptian demonstrators confront riot police during a demonstration in Cairo. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Abed)
Mohamed ElBaradei after Friday prayers outside a Giza mosque. (AP Photo/ Lefteris Pitarakis)
An Egyptian demonstrator confronts riot police during a demonstration after the Friday prayer Jan. 28. (AFP Photo/Mohamed Abed)