Egypt chaos continues: A member of Lebanon's Hezbollah jailed in Egypt for planning attacks against Israeli tourists in Sinai has escaped from prison, Egyptian security sources said on Thursday. Earilier, the media reported that Egyptian businessman Hisham Talaat, who was found guilty of the murder of singer Suzanne Tamim, escaped from prison.
Sami Chehab, sentenced last April to 15 years in prison, escaped on Sunday, they said. Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has previously said Chehab was a member of a Hezbollah cell that was working to smuggle weapons through Egypt to the Gaza Strip. Sources close to Chehab's family said he had already left Egypt.
The emergency state security court sentenced Chehab as part of a group of 26 men charged with planning attacks in Egypt. The case underscored Egyptian concern about what it sees as the destabilizing influence of Shi'ite Iran, Hezbollah's main sponsor.
A number of prominent prisoners have escaped from Egyptian jails over the last week as law and order collapsed when mass protests against President Hosni Mubarak began and police were temporarily withdrawn from the streets.
Prime minister apologizes
Meanwhile, Al-Arabiya reported that live fire was once again being heard at Tahrir Square in Cairo. It was not immediately clear who was responsible or if there were any victims, and the report said tanks had begun to push supporters of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak from the square.
Earlier the organizers of a protest against Egypt's government said they had detained 120 people carrying identities associating them with either the police or the ruling party, most of them caught while attacking the demonstrators.
Kamal Ismail, an official in a committee organizing the protests, showed a Reuters journalist two identity cards confiscated on Thursday from men he said had tried to infiltrate the protest camp. One of them belonged to a police officer.
He said most of those detained had been overpowered by the protesters during confrontations that began on Wednesday afternoon when supporters of Mubarak tried to force anti-Mubarak demonstrators from Tahrir Square. The anti-Mubarak protesters have been handing their detainees over to the army, he added.
Egypt's prime minister apologized for the attack by regime supporters on anti-government protesters in central Cairo, vowing to investigate who was behind it. Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq has told state TV, "I offer my apology for everything that happened yesterday because it's neither logical nor rational."
The public apology from a top government official was highly unusual. Shafiq called the attack a "blatant mistake" and promised to investigate "so everyone knows who was behind it."
The Egyptian government also denied having enlisted supporters to attack anti-government protesters. "The accusations against the government are totally false. This would actually harm our aim of returning calm to the streets," said Cabinet spokesman Magdi Radi.
Opposition declines to talk to Mubarak
Egyptian authorities reported that they were holding talks with protestors in al-Tahrir Square in efforts to put an end to the riots that broke out after Mubarak's announcement that he would be standing down at the next elections.
Yet prominent opposition activist Mohamed ElBaradei and the Muslim Brotherhood rejected a call on Thursday by the prime minister for talks saying President Hosni Mubarak must leave office first, they told Reuters on Thursday.
Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq invited opposition groups to talks on Thursday. Al Jazeera and others reported that some groups had agreed, including the liberal, nationalist Wafd party, which is a legal party. The Brotherhood is banned.
"We have refused to meet. Any negotiations are conditional on Hosni Mubarak stepping down and also conditional on security in Tahrir square," ElBaradei told Reuters by telephone.
"We would also like to add that we refuse anything that results from this meeting," said Mohammed al-Beltagi, a former member of parliament from the Brotherhood, adding that his group backed the conditions outlined by ElBaradei.
In spite of Mubarak's announcement earlier this week, the protests and riots continued as at least five people were killed and 13 were wounded by live fire in al-Tahrir Square. The Al Arabiya network reported the doctors at the scene said that the injured were anti-government protesters camping out in Cairo's Tahrir square who were shot by supporters loyal to President Hosni Mubarak.
Also Thursday, the UN announced that some 350 people working for the United Nations in Egypt would be evacuated to Cyprus because of security concerns in the country.
Reuters, AP, and Roee Nahmias contributed to this report
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