Army wades into Cairo protests
The Egyptian military is going to help police quell anti-government protests and a curfew has been imposed in major cities, according to national state television.
The announcement came as reports emerged of plumes of black smoke seen billowing from parts of Cairo. With internet, mobile phone networks and even some landphone lines disconnected, precise details are hard to confirm.
But state TV says a curfew has been imposed from between 18:00 and 07:00 in Cairo, Suez and Alexandria, an order imposed by President Hosni Mubarak. And media are reporting that military vehicles have entered central Cairo’s main square.
Fresh clashes broke out at the start of the afternoon between Egyptian police and anti-government protesters, with people shouting phrases such as “down, down with Mubarak” and “the plane is waiting for you.”
Hundreds of thousands turned out for demonstrations calling for President Hosni Mubarak to step down. Teargas, water cannon and rubber bullets are reported to have been used. At least two protesters were reported killed, one in Cairo and one in Suez.
After days of mounting unrest, both of the country’s biggest opposition groups backed today’s call for protest action after Friday prayers. The government attempted to block the demonstrations by shutting down internet and mobile phone services.
The demonstrations are also backed by the Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, who has returned to Cairo. One report said ElBaradei had initially been prevented from leaving an area where he took part in a prayer service. Witnesses have since said though
that ElBaradei was allowed to join a peaceful march in the capital and that some demonstrators shook hands with police.
This unrest is the latest political upheaval to hit the Middle East and North Africa, from Egypt to Tunisia and Lebanon to Yemen.
President Barack Obama has also called on the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to make what he calls “absolutely critical” reforms, putting added pressure on a man who has ruled Egypt for almost 30 years.
One news agency reports that four French journalists have been detained by the authorities.