Liveblog: Cairo erupts

UPDATED: Chaos in the streets, opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei criticizes America

Published January 28, 2011 1:30PM (EST)


UPDATE (13:12) From the annals of ironically humorous advice, John Kerry gives political pointers to Hosni Mubarak:

"I think he's got to speak more to the real issues that people feel,"

Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi supports the uprising in Egypt, but wants everyone to know that Iran started all this.

UPDATE (13:01) Egyptian opposition leader Mohamed Elbaradei just finished speaking on Al Jazeera, expressing displeasure over how the United States and other countries chose "the middle ground." He insists that Egypt cannot stand unless Mubarak steps down immediately.

UPDATE (12:00) Hosni Mubarak has appointed Omar Suleiman, the head of the country’s intelligence services to the vice presidency. The move would seem to hint at succession.

UPDATE (11:41) From the AP: Massive demonstration swells in downtown Cairo, 38 reportedly dead:

"One army captain joined the demonstrators, who hoisted him on their shoulders while chanting slogans against Mubarak. The officer ripped a picture of the president.

'We don't want him! We will go after him!' demonstrators shouted. They decried looting and sabotage, saying: 'Those who love Egypt should not sabotage Egypt!'"


UPDATE (20:15) As Egyptian night gives way to darkened morning, news slows. In the dearth of developments, questions linger. Such as: What happens to the Copts? Egypt's Christian minority has indirectly suffered during the Mubarak regime (Captured beautifully in this Atlantic account). Hosni failed to protect them from the Muslim fundamentalists he so inflamed.

For now, Muslims and Copts seem united in repelling Mubarak's repression. But, what if the Copt-unfriendly Muslim Brotherhood gains more power in the coming months? This is worth studying in the wake of today's tumult.

UPDATE (19:18)
President Obama addressed the nation echoing many of the same points made by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs earlier this afternoon. After speaking with President Mubarak for as long as 30 minutes, Obama urged the Egyptian leader to build a better democracy and to do so peacefully. From the State Dining Room, Obama told the American people:

Those protesting in the streets have a responsibility to express themselves peacefully. Violence and destruction will not lead to reforms they seek.

This moment of volatility has to be turned into a moment of promise.

Read more about Obama's address here. And read more about Mubarak's promise for a better democracy in his address to the world following today's protests here.

UPDATE (18:20)
Protestors expressed dissent after President Mubarak refused to step down as President. In his address Mubarak called on the cabinet to resign but failed to dissolve Parliament which is controlled by Mubarak's party by an overwhelming majority. As Egypt slips into the early morning hours, protestors remain in the streets, and the army has taken over Tahrir Square -- described by many as Egypt's Times Square.

In the wake of Mubarak's address to Egypt, The New Yorker re-released the profile featuring the Egyptian president from their April 5, 2010 issue. Read it here.

UPDATE (17:32)
President Mubarak -- who has NOT fled the country -- addressed the world in a live broadcast. Based on translations provided by Al Jazeera, Mubarak expressed regret for the casualties and touted the civil liberties the Egyptian people enjoy:

These demonstrations and what we witnessed earlier wouldn't have taken place without a huge space and room for freedom from suppression.

Mubarak also talked about his frustration that the protests limited efforts to improve democracy and economic concerns in Egypt. Inevitably, Mubarak refused to step down but will appoint a new government tomorrow:

The incidents that took place today and in the past few days have left the majority of Egyptian people fearing for Egypt and its future, cautious of further mayhem chaos and destruction. I -- shouldering my first responsibility to maintain the homeland security and citizens' safety -- cannot tolerate, cannot allow this fear to grip our people. And therefore I won’t allow this to hold our future and our fate. I have requested the government to step down today. I will designate a new government tomorrow.

UPDATE (17:06)
An unconfirmed report from Israel TV claims that President Mubarak has fled Egypt and is heading to Switzerland. At the time of this posting, no other news outlet reported this, so we might want to add bold italics when we say that news is unconfirmed.) However, Egytpian State TV denied that planes departed from Cairo's airport, according to a tweet by Abdul Hamid Ahmad, editor-in-chief of Gulf News.

The Speaker of the Egyptian Parliament, Dr. Ahmad Fathi Suroor will reported make "an important announcement" soon, according to Al Jazeera.

UPDATE (16:23)
CNN reports that a heavily guarded motorcade entered the Cairo airport thourgh the VIP entrance. A group of people boarded three private planes who were told to keep their engines running for a speedy takeoff, and within minutes the planes took to the air. According to CNN, the list of people in Egypt who would have access to the resources to flee the country so quickly is very short.

More experts weigh in on what could happen next in Egypt. Mark Lynch, a political science and international affairs professor at George Washington University and writer for Foreign Policy thinks a military takeover is possible. He said in a tweet:

@abuaardvark: Military dumping Mubarak now looking possible, real question is whether it stops there or continues to real democratic transition.

Lynch also expressed dissatisfaction with Robert Gibbs lack of assertive language in this afternoon's presser -- specifically Gibb's dodging the question about why Obama hadn't phoned the Egyptian president. In a blog post on FP earlier today, Lynch called for direct action from the U.S. government, some of which has been taken:

The administration has to get out in the next few hours with a strong public statement by a senior official, such as Secretary of State Clinton, which clearly lays out that using violence against citizens is a U.S. red line and which goes beyond "urging" or "hoping" that the Egyptian government responds. It's really important that the United States be clearly and unambiguously on the right side of these events, and not wait and see too long for it to matter. The public message should be paired with blunt private messages to the Egyptian government that there's no going back to business as usual, regardless of whether Mubarak rides out this storm in the short run.

UPDATE (15:21)
In a White House press conference Robert Gibbs addressed the events in Egypt. When asked why President Obama hadn't picked up the phone to call president Mubarak, Gibbs replied:

I think its important to understand we’re in continual communication throughout our government with the Egyptian government.

UPDATE (15:05)
Sec. Robert Gibbs is expected to address the nation shortly. His delay, according to one Twitter user, might hint at a special guest's presence:

@chucktodd: The continued delay of the start of the Gibbs briefing has room abuzz of a special visitor to press room to talk Egypt.

Meanwhile, the U.S. will reconsider $1.5 billion in aid to Egypt.

UPDATE (14:13 EST)
The injury count has risen to 870 and up to 6 people have been killed in Cario today.

The ruling National Democratic Party headquarters are on fire. As it burns, protesters are looting the inside of the building. Meanwhile, troops have moved to protect the Egyptian National Museum from flames which could destroy priceless artifacts resulitng in a "cultural disaster."

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also made a statement from Davos about the situation in Egypt. When asked about the Egyptian government shutting down the internet,

I believe that one of the ground principles of democracy is to protect and ensure the freedom of speech of the people.

All concerned people or leaders should ensure that the situation in that region -- and particularly now in Egypt -- does not and should not lead to further violence, and I have been calling on the authorities to see all these situations as an opportunity to engage in addressing the legitimate concerns and wishes of their peoples.

Responding to today's events, Salon's Dan Gillmor explains how the government shut down the intern and comments on what it might mean for America.

UPDATE (13:49 EST)
The New York Times reports the end of a battle in the ancient port city of Alexandria. Meanwhile in Cairo, one eyewitness report hints at further cooperation between the military and the people:

@elhelwy: eyewitness accounts: police + fifteen military personnell dump weapons in nile as an act of solidarity with the protestors #jan25

Protesters have also reportedly stormed the state television network. Actual occupations are just one of many challeges presented to journalists, especially broadcasters, says the New York Times.

UPDATE (13:25 EST)
At least 410 people have been injured and two people have died today in Cairo. Al Jazeera reports widespread beatings of journalists, and apparently, foreign correspondents are being targeted. One BBC reporter said he was beaten badly with steel bars by security forces. A CNN also tweeted that he'd had his camera equipment destroyed by police.

The AP recently released this video of the day's events:

UPDATE (13:05 EST)
"The people and the army -- we are one." This quote reportedly being chanted on the streets of Cairo may be known as the turning point in Egypt's burgeoning revolution. The iconic image of people climbing on top of tanks in central Cairo shows this sense of solidarity, which commentators are recognizing more and more as a turning point. Just as the Army's involvement in Tunisia led to the government's collapse, many claim that a similar story could follow in Egypt.

Meanwhile, President Hosni's Mubarak's silence is increasingly telling. He had said over two hours ago that he would address the nation.

There are also reports that the police and the army are clashing. The sounds of helicopters, possibly planes, are now being heard over Cairo.

This stunning image of a police van burning appeared on Al Jazeera earlier. Note the protester held at gunpoint in the upper right hand corner:

UPDATE (12:40 EST)
The whereabouts of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak are unknown, says MSNBC's live broadcast. Mubarak is expected to give an address at any moment.

Al Jazeera also reports that police have not enforced the curfew, and more protesters are emerging. The curfew ordered by the president has now been applied to the entire country. It originally applied only to Cairo.

UPDATE (12:25 EST)
The AP reports that protesters have stormed the Egyptian Foreign Ministry building.

Over the past few minutes, the Egyptian army appears to be taking over the country as it seizes control of police stations in Cairo. The army has also now stormed into Suez and Alexandria. According to Al Jazeera, 50,000 people are protesting in Suez. The situation seems more calm in Alexandria. According to one tweet:

@evanchill: Military has just arrived in Alexandria and has flashes thumbs up to the protesters. #jan25

Read more curated Twitter reports here.

Fawaz Gerges, Professor of Middle Eastern Politics and International Relations at the London School of Economics, explains the implications of this on Al Jazeera:

The introduction of the military is another concession by the Mubarek regime that the situation is escalating beyond its control, and I would argue that the final decision will be in the military's hands, not the Mubarek regime's.

UPDATE (12:13 EST)
Secretary of State Hilary Clinton issued a statement urging the Egyptian government to allow for peaceful protests:

As we have repeatedly said, we support the human rights of the Egyptian people… including freedom of speech.

These protests underscore that they are deep grievance within the Egyptian society and the Egyptian government needs to understand that violence will not make these grievances go away.

Egypt has long been an important partner of the united states on a range of important issues. as a partner we strongly believe that the Egyptian government needs to engage immediately with the Egyptian people [for reform].

Here are Sec. Clinton's full remarks:

UPDATE (11:51 EST)
Sounds of gunfire echoed in the distance as protesters paused and kneeled for the final evening prayer. During the prayers, police fired tear gas canisters into the kneeling crowd. One proster threw a canister back at police.

Said one Al Jazeera commentator:

The barrier of fear has fallen. Egyptians are on the streets, taking change into their own hands… The army is key. In Tunisia it was the army that made the difference.

Another commentator pointed out that the regime's attempt to quell dissent by shutting down communications -- including the internet in the wake of attempts to stop Twitter and Facebook updates -- only angered protesters more.

Here are some screenshots from Al Jazeera's live broadcast (also streaming online here):

UPDATE (11:31 EST)
Al Jazeera reports loud explosions, possible gunfire in Cairo's streets as army vehicles storm into Cairo's main square. Buildings surrounding that square are important government buildings.

Press Secretarty Robert Gibbs also tweeted concern for the situation:

@presssec: Very concerned about violence in Egypt - government must respect the rights of the Egyptian people & turn on social networking and internet

UPDATE (11:20 EST)
CNN reports in a live broadcast that Joe Biden expressed support for Egyptian president Hosni Mubark, claiming he's been responsible on issues like Israel.

A building in the compound of the ruling National Democratic Party is on fire, reports Al Jazeera. The complex holds symbollic signicance for the Egyptian people as the center of power for the oppressive regime.

UPDATE (11:05 EST)
The Egyptian government announces a curfew from 6:00 P.M. 7:00 A.M. In order to help impose the curfew, the Egyptian president ordered the Army into the streets. Meanwhile, police enter Al Jazeera's broadcasting facility in Cairo reportedly to interrupt their live broadcast of protestors setting police vehicles on fire and attempting to push it into the Nile River.


It's all fun and games until you hit a Nobel Peace Prize winner with a water cannon.

That's perhaps too-lighted hearted a way to open a post about the increasingly violent situation in Egypt. Since the initial anti-government protests on Tuesday, January 25 -- not coincidentally, also a national holiday to commemorate the police -- each day of action is bigger and more violent than the day before. As recently as a few minutes ago, riot police fired rubber bullets, water cannons, real bullets and tear gas into crowds of protestors. Tens of thousdands of protestors.

The story is developing as the largest protests are currently underway. But here are a few developments (in reverse chronological order) from the past few hours:

Nobel Laureate Mohamed ElBarabei hit with water cannon, arrested
Police blasted water cannons into a crowd of thousands after noon prayers on Friday. Among those hit was pro-democracy leader Mohamed ElBarabei, a vocal opponent to the oppressive tactics of the current regime under President Hosni Mubarek. ElBarabei kicked off the protests with an interview and a bold statement: "I'm sending a message to the Guardian and to the world that Egypt is being isolated by a regime on its last legs." Just a few minutes ago, authorities detained ElBarabei, the 2005 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Wikileaks release Egypt cables revealing tense U.S./Egypt relations
With a characteristically high profile cast of leaders implicated, the latest Wikileaks cable realease provides the confidential backstory of the United States' stake in Egyptian politics. From the U.S. Ambassador explicitly instructing Secretary of State Hilary Clinton from mentioning the name of opposition leader Ayman Nour to hints at America's tacit support for the President Mubarek's controversial regime, the flood of behind-closed-doors details further fueled dissent.

Video of protestor being shot released, internet access restricted minutes later
In what may be referred to as Egypt's "Neda moment" the Associated Press releasted a graphic and disturbing video of a protestor being shot -- likely by police. In the immediate aftermath, government deployed special forces in Cairo and, many suspect, shut down internet access. Though intermittent Facebook and Twitter outages limited protestors ability to organize, the Guardian is calling the country-wide ISP interruption a "shotgun approach" to limiting activists' organizing tools.

Check back in throughout the day as we summarize the situation and provide resources to dive deeper into this developing story.

By Adam Clark Estes

Adam Clark Estes blogs the news for Salon. Email him at and follow him on Twitter @adamclarkestes

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Africa Egyptian Protests Middle East