EGYPT: Mubarak’s Rule Hanging On By A Thread

[Illustration by khalid Albaih]

AL JAZEERA: Protesters have returned to the streets of Cairo, following violent overnight protests across the country staged in defiance of a curfew. Demonstrators gathered in Tahrir Square in the Egyptian capital on Saturday morning, shouting “Go away, go away!”, the Reuters news agency said. The latest protests reflected popular discontent with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s midnight address, where he announced that he was dismissing his government but remaining in power. The several hundred protesters demonstrated in full view of the army, which had been deployed in the city to quell the popular unrest sweeping the Middle East’s most populous Muslim country since January 25. They also repeatedly shouted that their intentions were peaceful. Reuters reported that the police “fired shots” on the protesters. An independent confirmation of that report is awaited. Al Jazeera’s Jane Dutton, reporting from Cairo, said the normally bustling city looked more like a warzone early on Saturday morning. Tanks have been patrolling the streets of the capital since early in the morning. The ruling National Democratic Party’s headquarters in the capital is still ablaze, more than 12 hours after it was set alight by protesters. The Egyptian army says that it has been able to secure the neighbouring museum of antiquities from the threat of fire and looting, averting the possible loss of thousands of priceless artefacts. Armoured personnel carriers remain stationed around the British and US embassies, as well as at the state television station. Some mobile phone networks resumed service in the capital on Saturday, after being shut down by authorities on Friday. Internet services remain cut, and landline usage limited. MORE

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RELATED: Renesys watched as about 93 percent of Egypt’s Internet traffic began to shut down after midnight Friday in Cairo. Cowie said he could track each of the country’s major Internet service providers as they began a shutdown and data suggest government officials made a series of quick phone calls within a few minutes. In a statement on the company’s website, Vodafone Egypt also said that “all mobile operators in Egypt have been instructed to suspend services in selected areas. Under Egyptian legislation the authorities have the right to issue such an order and we are obliged to comply with it. The Egyptian authorities will be clarifying the situation in due course.” MORE

RELATED: How hard is it, exactly, to kill the Internet? Egypt seems to have been able to do it. But Egypt’s situation isn’t exactly the same as that in the Western world. And even though Egypt only has four big ISPs, the fact that everything went down after midnight local time suggests that it took considerable effort to accomplish the ‘Net shut-off. After all, it seems unlikely that President Hosni Mubarak ordered the Internet to be shut down as he went to bed; such a decision must have been made earlier in the day, and then taken hours to execute. MORE

RELATED: Egyptian military tanks have surrounded Cairo’s Tahrir Square, where hundreds of protesters gathered and the crowd was growing Saturday. The atmosphere was tense as demonstrators continued chants of, “Down with Mubarak,” hours after President Hosni Mubarak announced that he would remain in power but had asked the country’s government to resign. But demonstrators also chanted, “We are all Egyptians,” and people gathered in the square were posing for pictures with tanks and shaking troops’ hands. MORE

An Egyptian anti-government activist kisses a riot police officer following clashes in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Jan. 28, 2011. Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters poured into the streets of Egypt Friday, stoning and confronting police who fired back with rubber bullets and tear gas in the most violent and chaotic scenes yet in the challenge to President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

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