demonstrators defied a curfew to protest Monday morning in Egypt's
capital, demanding President Hosny Mubarak step down from office
after three decades of rule.
Leading opposition activist Mohammed ElBaradei had earlier Sunday
promised tens of thousands of protesters that change would come to
their country, as they staged a sixth day of demonstrations in
Cairo and other cities.
"What we have begun today cannot be turned back," the Nobel Peace
Prize winner told the crowd in Cairo's central Tahrir Square
through a megaphone on what he termed an "historic day".
"We are beginning a new era in Egypt," said ElBaradei. He is
trying to organise the opposition, but faces some scepticism,
largely owing to his many years outside the country, including at
the helm of the UN's nuclear watchdog.
A few hundred protesters remained in Tahrir Square into Monday
morning despite a curfew and severe government-ordered disruptions
to phone and internet services. But their numbers had dwindled and
the protests remained peaceful, according to satellite television
The US, Egypt's key ally, said it expected events in Egypt to lead
to a "transition", ending with democratic elections, as President
Barack Obama consulted with key leaders in the region. But
ElBaradei said Washington was losing credibility by not more
staunchly supporting change in Cairo.
Gamal Nasser, a spokesman for the largest opposition grouping, the
Muslim Brotherhood, said his group was in talks with ElBaradei and
other movements to form a national unity government without
President Hosny Mubarak or his ruling National Democratic Party.
The Brotherhood, banned but tolerated under Mubarak, also demanded
an end to the country's draconian emergency laws, which grant
police wide-ranging powers.
Protesters, most not affiliated to any party or movement, poured
into city centres all over Egypt, from remote areas such as
Mansoura in the north to Alexandria, the second largest city, in
"We will not go until Mubarak goes," was one of many
anti-government chants heard in Cairo and other scenes of protests
in the vast and largely poor country of 80 million people.
A simpler form of the slogan said simply "Leave" and was
handwritten on placards and pieces of paper held up by
The city was relatively quiet overnight. Shots could be heard in
some of Egypt's residential neighbourhoods into Monday morning,
though there was also a greater military presence keeping security
in many quarters.
Residents in big cities formed neighbourhood watch groups in an
effort to protect their families and property from looters. Some
of these groups even arrested vandals. More groups were formed for
Sunday night, but looting and violence was down.
In the chaos, thousands of prisoners were said to have escaped
detention facilities in different areas of the country and had
become one of the greatest security concerns for many residents.
At least four prisons in Cairo had break outs.
They included political prisoners - the Muslim Brotherhood said 38
members of its group were released Sunday - but witnesses also
said they feared violent offenders were out on the streets.
One witness described two men with blood on their shirts roaming
Cairo's wealthy Damalek neighbourhood. They were handed over by a
local watch group to the military.
At least 150 people have died so far in violence linked to the
In the early evening Sunday military fighter jets and army
helicopters buzzed low overhead in a show of force as the
protesters chanted. Tanks were also surrounding demonstration
areas, though the soldiers did not interfere with the protests.
Police, pushed from the streets Friday night after clashes with
protesters, were back in parts of Cairo after dark Sunday, with
the interior ministry pledging they would be fully re-deployed by
Obama telephoned the leaders of Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia and
Britain, telling his counterparts that the US backed "an orderly
transition to a government that is responsive to the aspirations
of the Egyptian people", White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said
in a statement.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on morning talk shows for
the first time called for "free and fair elections" and an
"orderly transition" in Egypt, ruled for the last three decades by
Mubarak, though she stopped short of calling for Mubarak to step
Mubarak - who spent the morning visiting troops, according to
state television - has so far reshuffled some top positions and
vaguely pledged better economic prospects and freedoms. He later
met with military and other officials over new the cabinet
Importantly, he appointed his former intelligence chief, Omar
Suleiman, as vice president - a post that has been vacant for
nearly three decades - but many who headed to the streets said it
was not enough.
The unrest has caused foreigners to flee in droves, with Western
and Arab states saying they will arrange special flights to
evacuate their citizens. A great crush was being reported at Cairo
The looting has caused divisions within Egypt, as concern for
safety has roused some citizens to confront protesters, demanding
an end to the chaos.
There was damage to artefacts at the Egyptian Museum, including to
items from the King Tutankhamun exhibit, but it remained limited
to one section of the building, officials said. Officers from the
much despised police force were blamed for this and other attacks.
Internet connections across most of the country remained shut off
and al-Jazeera said its Arabic service was forced by the
government to close its Cairo bureau.