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Egyptian government on last legs, says ElBaradei
Exclusive: Mohamed ElBaradei says he is sending a message 'to the Guardian and to the world'
Jack Shenker in Cairo and Haroon Siddique
guardian.co.uk, Friday 28 January 2011 09.47 GMT
(embedded video and links at source)
The Egyptian dissident Mohamed ElBaradei warned President Hosni Mubarak today that his regime is on its last legs, as tens of thousands of people prepared to take to the streets for a fourth day of anti-government protests.
The Nobel peace prize winner's comments to the Guardian represented his strongest intervention against the country's authoritarian government since he announced his intention to return to Egypt to join the protests. "I'm sending a message to the Guardian and to the world that Egypt is being isolated by a regime on its last legs," he said.
His words marked an escalation of the language he used on arrival in Cairo last night, when he merely urged the Mubarak government to "listen to the people" and not to use violence.
ElBaradei has been criticised by some Egyptians for the late return to his homeland, two days after the protests began – hundreds of people have already been arrested and exposed to the brutal tactics of the security services. But ElBaradei was keen to stress his solidarity with the protesters.
"There is of course a risk to my safety today, but it's a risk worth taking when you see your country in such a state you have to take risks," he said. "I will be with the people today."
In an apparent bid to scupper the protests, the Egyptian authorities have cut off almost all access to the internet from inside and outside the country. ElBaradei said the move was proof the government was in "a state of panic".
"Egypt today is in a pre-information age," he said. "The Egyptians are in solitary confinement – that's how unstable and uncomfortable the regime is. Being able to communicate is the first of our human rights and it's being taken away from us. I haven't seen this in any other country before."
He said the lack of communications could hamper organisation of the demonstrations, planned to begin after Friday prayers. "I don't know what my hopes are for today," he said. "It would be hard with the communications cut off but I think a lot of people will be turning out." Organisers of the marches – dubbed "the Friday of anger and freedom" – are defying a government ban on protests issued on Wednesday. They have been using social media to co-ordinate plans, and hope to rally even more than the tens of thousands who turned out on Tuesday in the biggest protests since 1977.
ElBaradei has already criticised the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, for describing the Egyptian government as stable and he stepped up his calls for the rest of the world to explicitly condemn Mubarak, who is a close ally of the US.
"The international community must understand we are being denied every human right day by day," he said. "Egypt today is one big prison. If the international community does not speak out it will have a lot of implications. We are fighting for universal values here. If the west is not going to speak out now, then when?"
Police members remove suits and join protests
Egypt police struggle to crush anti-regime protests
(embedded video and pictures at source)
CAIRO (Al Arabiya.net, Agencies)
Thousands of protesters gathered across Cairo and other cities on Friday including the eastern Egyptian hotspot of Suez and the Nile Delta cities of Mansoura and Sharqiya, calling for an end to "corruption" and "dictatorship," Al Arabiya TV reported.
Protesters gathered near the presidential palace in Nasr City, outside of Cairo’s city center, according to Al Arabiya TV.
Police fired rubber bullets at thousands of protesters who had gathered outside the prominent al-Azhar mosque in central Cairo after Friday prayers, a Reuters witness said.
An Egyptian protester flashes Egypt flag as anti-riot policemen use water canon against protesters
A number of police members removed their suits and joined protests against the regime, according to Al Arabiya.
The crowd threw stones at police lines and shouted slogans against President Hosni Mubarak, 82, and his son, Gamal, 47, who many Egyptian believe is being groomed for future office.
"The people want the regime to fall," they shouted, alongside "No to succession". They also cried "Down, Down, Hosni Mubarak."
Nobel Peace Laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, who has called for the Egyptian president to quit, joined a peaceful march in Cairo after demonstrators near him clashed with police earlier in the day, witnesses said.
An Arabic television channel earlier said ElBaradei had been penned in by police where he had taken part in Friday prayers at a mosque. The protesters around him had thrown stones at police after they were sprayed with water.
"It's peaceful, it's peaceful," some chanted in the later, calm protest. Some protesters shook hands with police.
"Down, Down Hosni Muabark"
Police were firing teargas in Mansoura, the witness from the the movement said.
Protesters shouted "Down, Down, Hosni Mubarak" and stamped on posters of the president after Friday prayers, witnesses said.
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 organising.
ElBaradei earlier had joined prayers involving about 2,000 people.
"The people want the end of the regime," they started shouting once prayers were complete.
"Leave, leave, Mubarak, Mubarak, the plane awaits you," they chanted in the protests, which were inspired by a revolt in Tunisia.
The Tunisian president of 23 years, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, was forced to flee to Saudi Arabia on Jan. 14 after a month of protests.
Egyptians have staged mass protests since Tuesday and hundreds have been arrested.
Members of the Muslim Brotherhood, including at least eight senior officials of the opposition group and its main spokesmen, were rounded up overnight. A security source said authorities had ordered a crackdown on the group.
Young protesters want an end to Mubarak's authoritarian rule that has used heavy-handed security to crush dissenters who complain about unemployment, inflation and corruption which have created a huge gap between rich and poor.
The same complaints about corruption and poverty can be heard across the region and have prompted protests in countries like Algeria and Yemen.
"Inflation has exhausted people. Prices of food, fuel, electricity, sugar are rising ... The rich get richer and the poor poorer," said a taxi driver, declining to be named.
"God knows what will happen today. After Tunisia anything is possible."
The Internet via Egyptian servers was blocked across the country shortly after midnight, closing a key tool for activists relying on social media networks.
Mobile phone and text messaging services also appeared to be disabled or working sporadically.
Facebook has been the main vehicle for announcing Friday's protest and identifying locations for demonstrations.
The government has accused the Muslim Brotherhood of planning to exploit the youth protests for its "hidden agendas". The Brotherhood says it is being used as a scapegoat.
BREAKING: Protesters storm Misr Helwan road
(pic at source)
Thousands of protesters storm Misr Helwan road, heading to Downtown.
They chanted, "people want the regime to fall."
Residents of the Maadi neighborhood rushed to the street to collect their cars. But protesters on the road told them that it was a peaceful protest.
Five thousand protesters also left from Road 9 in the center of Maadi towards the Cornice, going up to the Munib Bridge.
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Guardian confirms police have given up in Alexandria
GuardianThe protesters are in control of the central square in Suez says al-Jazeera. There is no police presence. Jamal Elshayyal, their reporter in Suez, says:
The police has been quite comprehensively defeated by the power of the people.
NDP HEADQUARTERS DESTROYED IN DUMYAT AND ALMANSOURA
EDA: Quick updates:
Curfew is currently in effect and the army has been called in to enforce it. Reports of tanks moving into Suez and Cairo, protesters are waving at them, hoping to get them to side with them. NDP headquarters on fire in Cairo. President Mubarak set to speak soon. Live stream from Al Jazeera still up.