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ہفتہ، 29 جنوری، 2011

Battlefield Egypt

President Hosni Mubarak, facing the biggest challenge to his authority of his 31 years in power, has ordered the army onto the streets of Cairo. Mr Mubarak is expected to make a statement shortly. The curfew is now in effect, but live television pictures from Cairo continue to show large crowds on the streets.

Tens of thousands of protesters filled the streets of Egypt on Friday, prompting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to impose a curfew to cover all 28 governorates in the country, state television announced at the end of a fourth day of mass nationwide protests.

He had earlier declared a curfew in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez.

“Following the earlier decree... the commander of the armed forces has decided to extend the curfew to cover all governorates in the country,” state television said.

The curfew was to run from 6pm to 7am until further notice.

The president “has asked the armed forces, in cooperation with the police, to implement the decision, and maintain security and secure public establishments and private property,” it said.

In Cairo, protesters poured out of mosques after Friday prayers and ran rampant through the streets, throwing stones and torching two police stations as police chased them with batons, firing tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets.

In the canal city of Suez, protesters overran a police station, seized weapons and set fire to security force vehicles in fierce clashes in which a demonstrator was killed, witnesses said.

The nationwide demonstrations, inspired by the “Jasmine Revolution” in Tunisia, have swelled into the largest uprising in three decades, sending shockwaves across the region. Eight people have been killed, hundreds injured and some 1,000 arrested.

But in a hint that authorities might heed the rising tide of popular anger, a senior lawmaker and member of the ruling party called for “unprecedented reforms” in order to stave off a revolution.

Egypt is one of Washington’s closest allies in the region, but analysts say the United States is growing increasingly concerned that its refusal to implement more political reforms could lead to further unrest and instability.

That was reflected on Friday when Fitch ratings agency said it had revised its ratings outlook for Egypt to negative.

Demonstrations spread around the capital of Cairo, where police appeared overwhelmed as protesters broke through several police barriers.

Protesters were seen being dragged away and pushed into police vans, as others defied the heavy police presence and made their way to the central Tahrir Square.

Leading dissident Mohamed ElBaradei, who has said he would be prepared to lead a transitional authority if he were asked, was among a crowd of around 2,000 targeted by police and was forced to take refuge inside a mosque in Giza Square and not allowed to lead.

The crowd attacked police vans, torching one, after a civilian had most of his hand blown away, allegedly by police.

Protesters also set fire to the governorate building in the centre of Alexandria.

Medical sources said at least five protesters killed and 870 were wounded on a day that saw security forces using rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon to disperse crowds. Some were in a serious condition with bullet wounds.

The main opposition party, Wafd, said Egypt needs a period of transitional rule, new parliamentary elections and amendments to the constitution so a president can stand for only two six-year terms. agencies.
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