Funeral of Egyptian protestor
Photo: AP

Chaos in Cairo; looting, rapes reported

Tens of thousands of Cairo residents ignore curfew order, gather in capital's main square; Egyptian army warns protestors to refrain from targeting public property. Arab rulers express support for President Mubarak

Egyptian protestors have defied a curfew imposed by authorities, as tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered in Cairo's main square Saturday evening following a day of growing mayhem in Israel's southern neighbor.


However, no violent clashes were reported between the army and protestors Saturday evening. Tense quiet has also prevailed in Alexandria, yet the curfew declared in the city was not being enforced.


Meanwhile, Mubarak's son Gamal, who was previously slated to eventually succeed his father as Egypt's ruler, has reportedly quit the ruling party.


Earlier in the day, medical sources in Egypt confirmed that at least 82 people were killed in ongoing riots in the country and another 2,000 or so were wounded.


Despite the relative quiet, Egyptian security authorities made it clear that the calm was fragile and could end at any moment. According to some reports, the army boosted deployment in several cities in order to impose the curfew and curb ongoing looting.


Saturday evening, Egypt's army chief issued a statement calling on protestors to refrain from targeting public property.


"The army will not hesitate to act firmly against law-breakers," the statement warned. However, the chief of staff made it clear that Egypt's military has no intention of harming the protestors.


The army also set up a special hotline enabling citizens to report cases of violence and looting, al-Arabiya reported.


Looting goes on

Egyptians armed with sticks and razors have formed vigilante groups to defend their homes from looters after police disappeared from the streets following days of violent protests.


Banks, junctions and important buildings previously guarded by the police and state security were left abandoned on Saturday and civilians have quickly stepped in to fill the void.


"There is no police to be found anywhere," said Ghadeer, 23, from an upscale neighborhood. "Doormen and young boys from their neighborhoods are standing outside holding sticks, razors and other weapons to prevent people from coming in."

Looting continues across Egypt (Photo: AFP)


She added: "The community is working together to stop this and protect ourselves."


Egyptians have called for army intervention to bring back law and order. On Saturday, many protesters changed: "No to plundering and no to destruction."


Dozens of shops across Egypt have painted display windows white to hide contents and discourage looting.


"They are letting Egypt burn to the ground," said Inas Shafik, 35.


Rapes reported, museum vandalized

Scenes of looting appeared to spread from upscale parts of Cairo to downtown and poorer areas as well.


"Our jobs are done and over. There are thugs everywhere, ransacking our shops," Saleh Salem, a shop owner in central Cairo. "Since the government is not doing it, we are sending down our boys to create human shields to fight the criminals."


Rumours were rife with reports of escaped convicts running through the streets. State television reported at least 60 rape cases during the unrest. It also reported that the country's cancer hospital for children had been stormed.

Protestors, tank near National Museum (Photo: AP)


"They are torching down the prisons. Our lives and property are at risk. Get out of the way," one shopper shouted, echoing the anxieties of many as they raced to stock up at supermarkets.


Others stayed penned inside their homes for fear of what they said were marauding gangs in some areas. On Friday, looters broke into the Egyptian Museum and destroyed two pharaonic mummies, said Zahi Hawass, Egypt's top archaeologist. In walled-off estates on the outskirts of Cairo, private security locked down gates and refuse to let people in.


Abbas, Gaddafi call Mubarak 

While Arabs across the Middle East showed support for their Egyptian brethren, Arab leaders chose to express solidarity with President Mubarak. The first to endorse the Egyptian leader was Saudi King Abdullah, who said he supports Mubarak and criticized the ongoing protests.

Dramatic day in Egypt (Photo: AP)


"Islam cannot tolerate harm to the security and stability to our sister, Egypt, in the name of freedom of expression," the king was quoted as saying by Saudi Arabia's news agency. The Saudi king added that Mubarak expressed his confidence that the situation in Egypt is stable.


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called Mubarak earlier Saturday and expressed the Palestinian Authority's concern over the volatile situation in Egypt. However, Abbas added that he was certain that the Egyptian government will survive and restore order.


President Mubarak also received a phone call from Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who expressed his confidence in the stability of Egypt's society. Gaddafi also voiced his support for the ousted Tunisian president.


Egyptian news agency MENA reported that Gaddafi expressed his hope for an end to the protest and a better future for Egyptians.


Roee Nahmias contributed to the report



פרסום ראשון: 01.29.11, 20:22
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