Protesters defied a government crackdown on all forms of communication to hold the largest anti-government protests in Egypt in living memory. Hundreds of thousands of people showed up on the streets of Egypt’s capital and other large cities chanting slogans demanding of U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak, who has ruled the country as president for nearly three decades now.
In the past several days, protesters had gathered in Egypt’s capital and other cities and clashed with riot police, but the numbers had been much smaller. Yesterday, in the face of a brutal crackdown on protesters in the port city of Suez, protesters vowed to show up in large numbers after Friday prayers today.
Their call gained momentum when the Muslim Brotherhood — the largest opposition party in Egypt and an Islamic fundamentalist organization with links to terrorist organizations — gave backing to the protests, and opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed El Baradei returned to Cairo and promised to join the protesters.
The government last night arrested hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members, including their spokesperson Issam al -ryan. In an unprecedented move the government shut off almost all ISPs in the country, restricted cell phone service and landlines, and blocked SMS services to try and hamper the mobilization of protesters.
That effort seems to have failed.
Three hundred thousand people gathered in Egypt’s second largest city, Alexandria. Hundreds of thousands showed up in Cairo, and thousands more showed in Suez, Mansoura, and other cities. So far, clashes have left dozens injured, and at least one man has died in Cairo after being struck by a tear gas canister. El Baradei has apparently been forced into house arrest as well.
So far, protesters have managed to push back riot police and other security forces from the main squares and streets of Suez and Alexandria, and seem to be in control. In Cairo, the situation is extremely tense, and a curfew was announced by the military that will last from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. The military has been mobilized by Hosni Mubarak to control the protesters.
So far, chaos reigns. The headquarters of the ruling party, NDP, have been set on fire in several Egyptian cities, including the capital. Protesters have defied the curfew, and gunfire is now being heard from Cairo as night falls. President Hosni Mubarak has announced that he will appear on TV and address the nation soon. But as the day goes on in Egypt, it looks like the protests aren’t dying down, and the government is failing to control the situation.
Gunfire and loud explosions can be heard in Cairo, with noises getting louder by the minute. Several police vehicles have so far been torched, and it seems the situation will continue to escalate throughout the night.
More updates soon.