March of a million in Cairo to dislodge Mubarak (Third Lead)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

CAIRO - Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square Tuesday and many more were streaming in to participate in the march of a million as the movement to end Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule as president gained momentum across Egypt.

Some 100,000 protesters thronged Cairo’s downtown Tahrir Square for a march to the Presidential Palace, a day after the army said that it won’t be using force.

The military, however, set up roadblocks along the way leading up to the presidential palace and the soldiers checked people who were entering the public square. Tanks were positioned near the square, but that failed to stop the flow of people.

Public transportation and train services connecting Cairo and other cities were suspended, reported Xinhua.

The protesters had begun to arrive since early morning at the public square, which has been the focal point of the protests that were sparked off Jan 25, just a few days after a similar uprising in Tunisia saw its president being overthrown.

“The square is absolutely packed, there is hardly standing room for people. Tens of thousands of people are still streaming towards the square,” reported an Al Jazeera correspondent.

“The mood and atmosphere is incredible.”

Gigi Ibrahim, a political activist, told a TV network: “I think today there will be great numbers on the street… every day there are more numbers on the street than the day before. I think the protests are gaining momentum.”

“The people… will literally not leave until Mubarak steps down,” she said.

As the protesters demanded an ouster to Mubarak who has ruled Egypt since 1981, the Egyptian opposition groups were meeting Tuesday to plot a path forward, including the possibility of entering into negotiations with the current government.

Members of three opposition groups told DPA that talks were under way to coordinate a response to the overture MOnday night from Vice President Omar Suleiman, who said he

would open a dialogue with “all political parties”.

But it was unclear if the government would be willing to deal with the largest opposition bloc, the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

The protests got a boost when the army said “freedom of expression” was guaranteed to all citizens using peaceful means.

“To the great people of Egypt, your armed forces, acknowledging the legitimate rights of the people” stress that “they have not and will not use force against the Egyptian people,” said an army statement.

The statement came just a day before the march of the million people was to take place.

The media report said that another million-strong march was planned in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria.

At least 150 people have died so far in violence linked to the unrest.

The protesters in Tahrir Square have made it clear that they will not relent until Mubarak steps down and the country is put on the path towards serious economic and democratic reforms.

With the protests spiralling out of control, the internet has been down across the country since late Thursday. Internet monitor Renesys said another Egyptian internet service provider, Noor Group, appeared to have been taken down.

In response, Google said it would offer demonstrators a means of sending tweets to Twitter by calling a telephone number, where their words would be automatically converted into text.

Unrest was also widespread in other remote regions across the vast and mostly poor country of 80 million people, almost half below the age of 35. The protests are the largest in a generation.

Egypt’s economy was suffering with its bonds being downgraded. The country’s stock market and banks were also to remain closed.

The port in Alexandria was also closed, according to traders. But the Suez Canal, vital for international trade, remained functional.

There was, however, chaos at Cairo’s international airport where thousands of foreigners were attempting to be evacuated to their home countries. As many as 600 Indians have already been evacuated from Cairo, through two Air India flights that were specially operated for them.

Filed under: Politics

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