Protests continue in central Cairo

Saturday, January 29, 2011

CAIRO - Protest demonstrations continued Saturday in central Cairo after the government-ordered overnight curfew expired, with the military taking charge of security after Friday’s violence.

While the atmosphere was still described as tense, the streets were calm as the Egyptian military were seen taking a non-aggressive posture as they kept watch, eyewitnesses said.

The riot police - who had borne the brunt in the violent clashes the day before - had been consigned to side streets, away from the main Tahir Square.

When some police approached, protesters chased them and told the military to keep the police away, threatening that otherwise there would be more violence, eyewitnesses said.

Protesters spoke of cases in which the military had handed out food and tea to them during the night. Saturday morning, protesters could be seen standing atop tanks, taking pictures with the soldiers.

One tank had the slogan “down with Mubarak” sprayed on it, as protesters’ anger was unabated after President Hosny Mubarak’s nationally-televised speech late Friday.

With communications still severely disrupted, getting clear information about casualties remained difficult. As of Saturday morning, there were no further deaths reported after Friday’s violence in which at least 13 protesters were reportedly killed.

Many streets in the city remained blocked by the wreckage of dozens of parked cars, and there was a heavy smell of smoke in the air, with many people coughing. Throughout the city, posters of Mubarak had been torn down.

The ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) headquarters building remained on fire after Friday’s torching and looting by protesters.

While the main stores remained closed in central Cairo, a number of smaller shops and kiosks in other parts of the city were reopening on Saturday.

Earlier, eyewitness accounts had told of plundering of shops.

According to an Al Jazeera television report, there was also unrest overnight in the northern city of Alexandria.

Further eyewitness accounts said that hooligans had stormed into a hotel on the road leading to the pyramids at Gizeh, leading to confrontations with the hotels tourist guests.

In his late-night television address, Mubarak rejected calls for him to step down, and instead he called on his cabinet to resign.

In his 11-minute speech he said a new cabinet would be named Saturday and he warned against chaos while promising “new steps leading toward more democracy” and improvements in living standards,job opportunities and health care.

But after the 82-year-old leader’s speech, demonstrators continued with their demand that Mubarak must go. The former military general has been in power since the October, 1981 assassination of then-president Anwar Sadat.

Filed under: Politics

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