On Friday, The Lede continues to provide updates on the street protests in Egypt. For a summary of the latest developments, read the current version of our main news article from our colleagues in Cairo. Updates below mix alerts on breaking news with reports from bloggers and journalists posted on other news sites and social networks. A stream of Twitter updates on the protests is in this blog’s right column. Readers can share information in the comment thread below or send photographs or video from Egypt to email@example.com.
7:21 P.M. |International Rights Workers Released, Egyptians Held
Human Rights Watch reports:
Egyptian authorities on February 4, 2011, released researchers from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International and two foreign journalists, but should immediately free Egyptian colleagues who are still detained, Human Rights Watch said today.
“We are delighted our international colleagues have been released,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “But the Egyptian lawyers and rights monitors held should be freed at once.”
Those released among more than 30 people arbitrarily arrested on February 3, 2011, were Daniel Williams, a Human Rights Watch researcher; Amnesty International researcher Said Haddadi and a female colleague; and two foreign reporters.
Remaining in detention are Ahmed Seif Al Islam, the former director of the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, and at least nine other lawyers associated with the Hisham Mubarak Law Center or volunteers from the Front to Defend Egypt’s Protesters.
“The Egyptian government should never have arrested human rights monitors and journalists in the first place,” said Roth. “The Egyptians still being held have a vital role to play as Egypt’s crisis and serious human right abuses continue. The authorities need to free them without further delay.”
Now that it is late at night in Cairo, The Lede is going to sign off for the evening. But we will return on Saturday to continue live blog coverage of the ongoing protests in Egypt. In the meantime, please visit the home page of this Web site for the latest developments.
Thanks for all your comments and tips.
7:19 P.M. |Jan. 25, 1952
As we noted earlier, after detailing the Egyptian government’s attempts to portray the protests as the work of “foreign agents,” the Cairene blogger Sandmonkey observed scornfully, “For those of you who are counting this is an American-Israeli-Qatari-Muslim Brotherhood-Iranian-Hamas conspiracy. Imagine that.”
While it might be hard for some young Egyptians to take such conspiracy theories seriously, it is worth keeping in mind that older Egyptians, like the 82-year-old president, Hosni Mubarak, and his 74-year-old vice president, Omar Suleiman, came of age at a time when Egypt was still essentially under British control.
Issandr El Amrani, the Cairo-based journalist and blogger, wrote on Thursday that he has been thinking of parallels between this month’s unrest and the riots and fires in Cairo more than half a century ago, after a massacre of Egyptians by British forces on Jan. 25, 1952 in the town of Ismailia led to reprisals against foreign interests in the Egyptian capital the next day.
This old British newsreel on the fires gives a sense of the devastation:
6:49 P.M. |Search for Missing Google Executive Continues
Hashem E. Zahran, an Egyptian blogger in Alexandria – where tens of thousands also took to the streets on Friday – wrote on Twitter on Friday:
Search for @Ghonim continues, if you have ANY info email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44 20 7031 3008. Let’s get our friend back
As my colleague Claire Cain Miller explained on the Bits blog, @Ghonim is the Twitter handle of Wael Ghonim, who leads Google’s marketing for the Middle East and North Africa.
Mr. Ghonim, who was taking part in the protests. Google said in a statement: “He has not been seen since late Thursday evening in central Cairo.”
The company also asked anyone with information about Mr. Ghonim to call the number or write to the email address mentioned above that has been circulating online.
Hours before he went missing, Mr. Ghonim posted a message on Twitter which read:
Pray for Egypt. Very worried as it seems that government is planning a war crime tomorrow against people. We are all ready to die.
6:37 P.M. |Defense Minister Said Protests Are ‘Against Egypt’
Here is more evidence that the position of Egypt’s military is still unclear. This Associated Press video report on Friday’s protests in Cairo includes footage of Egypt’s defense minister, Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, in Tahrir Square on Friday and an interview with a protester who said that the military leader tried to convince the demonstrators that their actions were “against Egypt.”
Later on Friday, Mona Seif, a blogger and activist in the square who writes on Twitter as @monasosh, told her readers:
Hearing horror stories about what the regime is doing in secret. The army is involved. The stories I heard were 1st hand stories from close friends.
The army is not neutral. The army is playing a filthy role.
Let me clarify something: violation stories I heard are probably not by all army, but by military police. All the stories involve thugs capturing citizens handing them to military, then military police then harass them.
6:28 P.M. |ElBaradei Talks Politics With Spitzer
As if it is not odd enough for Americans following events in Cairo to read on the Twitter feeds of opposition protesters behind the barricades in Tahrir Square that they are meeting at the KFC in the part of the ancient capital under their control, here is video of an Elliott Spitzer interview of Mohamed ElBaradei, in which the former New York governor jokes with the Egyptian opposition leader about politics:
6:11 P.M. |Blogger Explains the ‘Revolution Without Leaders’
The Egyptian blogger and activist who writes as Sandmonkey posted an update on his Twitter feed after Friday’s protests that read:
This, more than anything, has been a war of ideas. Ours is freedom, personal rights & end of dictatorship; theirs isn’t.
One day earlier, he and four friends had been assaulted by regime supporters as they attempted to bring medical supplies to the besieged protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. (One of his friends, a Bloomberg News reporter, filed this harrowing account of the experience.)
Just before the blogger set out for the square on Thursday, he sat down and, removing the character limit shackles of Twitter, explained on his blog the ideas behind the protest movement in a post that deserves to be read in full.
In that post, Sandmonkey also took time to explained how, in his view, the regime was attempting to counter the protest movement with a mixture of propaganda on state television and violence by paid mobs. He wrote:
You watched on TV as “pro-Mubarak protesters” – thugs who were paid money by [ruling party] members by admission of high [party] officials- started attacking the peaceful unarmed protesters in Tahrir Square. They attacked them with sticks, threw stones at them, brought in men riding horses and camels – in what must be the most surreal scene ever shown on TV – and carrying whips to beat up the protesters. And then the bullets started getting fired and Molotov cocktails started getting thrown at the anti-Mubarak protesters… the Army standing idly by, allowing it all to happen and not doing anything about it.
Dozens were killed, hundreds injured, and there was no help sent by ambulances. The police never showed up to stop those attacking because the ones who were captured by the anti-Mubarak people had police I.D.s on them. They were the police and they were there to shoot and kill people and even tried to set the Egyptian Museum on fire. The aim was clear: use the clashes as pretext to ban such demonstrations under pretexts of concern for public safety and order, and to prevent disunity amongst the people of Egypt.
But their plans ultimately failed, by those resilient brave souls who wouldn’t give up the ground they freed of Egypt, no matter how many live bullets or firebombs were hurled at them. They know, like we all do, that this regime no longer cares to put on a moderate mask. That they have shown their true nature. That Mubarak will never step down, and that he would rather burn Egypt to the ground than even contemplate that possibility.
In the meantime, state-owned and affiliated TV channels were showing coverage of Peaceful Mubarak Protests all over Egypt and showing recorded footage of Tahrir Square protest from the night before and claiming it’s the situation there at the moment.
Hundreds of calls by public figures and actors started calling the channels saying that they are with Mubarak, and that he is our father and we should support him on the road to democracy. A veiled girl with a blurred face went on Mehwer TV claiming to have received funding by Americans to go to the U.S. and took courses on how to bring down the Egyptian government through protests which were taught by Jews. She claimed that Al Jazeera is lying, and that the only people in Tahrir Square now were Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.
State TV started issuing statements on how the people arrested Israelis all over Cairo engaged in creating mayhem and causing chaos.
For those of you who are counting this is an American-Israeli-Qatari-Muslim Brotherhood-Iranian-Hamas conspiracy. Imagine that.
And MANY PEOPLE BOUGHT IT. I recall telling a friend of mine that the only good thing about what happened today was that it made clear to us who were the idiots amongst our friends. Now we know.
Now, just in case this isn’t clear: this protest is not one made or sustained by the Muslim Brotherhood, it’s one that had people from all social classes and religious background in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood only showed up on Tuesday, and even then they were not the majority of people there by a long shot. We tolerated them there since we won’t say no to fellow Egyptians who wanted to stand with us, but neither the Muslim Brotherhood nor any of the opposition leaders have the ability to turn out one tenth of the numbers of protesters that were in Tahrir on Tuesday.
This is a revolution without leaders. Three million individuals choosing hope instead of fear and braving death on hourly basis to keep their dream of freedom alive. Imagine that.
5:24 P.M. |U.S. Embassy in Cairo Responds to Hit-and-Run Video
After graphic video was posted on YouTube, showing what Egyptian bloggers said was a vehicle like those used by American diplomats in Egypt running down pedestrians in Cairo following large street protests last week, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo issued the following statement on Friday, denying responsibility:
We have seen a video that alleges a U.S. diplomatic vehicle was involved in a hit-and-run incident that injured dozens in Cairo. We are certain that no embassy employees or diplomats were involved in this incident. On January 28, however, a number of our U.S. Embassy vehicles were stolen. Since these vehicles were stolen, we have heard reports of their use in violent and criminal acts. If true, we deplore these acts and the perpetrators.
Here is the disturbing video of the large car careening out of control and into a crowd of pedestrians (YouTube will ask viewers to confirm that they are prepared to watch the graphic images):
The video is similar to another shocking clip, said to show an Egyptian police van driving directly into a crowd of pedestrians during a recent street protest:
4:56 P.M. |Egyptian ‘Wise Men’ Work to Resolve Political Crisis
As the political impasse in Egypt continues, a number of prominent Egyptians have called for President Hosni Mubarak to step down, to open the way for negotiations on a transitional government that can run the country until new elections.
Ahmed Zewail, a Nobel Prize-winning chemist who left Egypt for the United States in the 1970s and is President Obama’s special envoy for science to the Middle East, sketched out a path to resolving the crisis in an Op-Ed article published in Wednesday’s International Herald Tribune. Mr. Zewail, who arrived in Cairo the same day to meet with members of the opposition and the government, wrote: “In order for this plan to succeed, President Hosni Mubarak must step down now.”
As Bloomberg News reported on Thursday, Dr. Zewail has won the backing of the April 6 Youth, a group of Internet activists who helped to mobilize the protests.
Along with Mohamed ElBaradei, who returned from his home in Vienna to join the protests last week, that means two Egyptian Nobel laureates are now working to find a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
The independent Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm reported on Friday that a newly-formed group of Egyptian intellectuals and businessmen, known as the Committee of Wise Men, has also insisted that Mr. Mubarak’s resignation is crucial.
As the Cairo-based journalist and blogger Issandr El Amrani explained on Friday, the “committee of pro-democracy activists” published a statement of six demands in the Egyptian newspaper Ash-Shorouk. That statement, translated into English by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, reads:
The current regime, represented by the president of the republic, has agreed to a limited number of the popular demands that have been clearly expressed. The people who have come out in the millions in Cairo and all Egyptian cities still insist on the following legitimate demands:
1. The President must delegate to his Vice President the responsibilities of managing the transitional period that began yesterday and will be completed by the end of the president’s current term.
2. The Vice President must agree to the following: dissolve the Shura Council and People’s Assembly and form a legislative committee consisting of constitutional experts and independent judges who will prepare for the necessary constitutional amendments.
3. Form a government of experts and independent figures that are accepted by the public to administer executive operations during this transitional period.
4. End the rule by Emergency Law and create specific mechanisms to hold accountable those responsible for attacks on the people as well as public and private property and for unprecedented intimidation of the public. Those in the various state institutions who contributed to exposing the nation and the public to the effects of this absence of security must also be held responsible.
5. Ensure the safety of the youth that have congregated in Tahrir Square and other streets in Cairo and various Egyptian cities during this transitional period, and protect them from prosecution, persecution and violation of their rights. Their rights, including freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and their legitimate means of expression, must be protected. We note our full solidarity with the youth and call on all signatories of this statement to protect the protesters and their personal safety.
6. We assert on record our appreciation and praise of the responsible, patriotic role of the military.
4:07 P.M. |Obama Told Mubarak ‘Violence Is Not Going to Work’
My colleague Michael Shear reports from Washington on President Barack Obama’s remarks about Egypt on Friday:
President Obama on Friday declined to say whether he thought Hosni Mubarak, the president of Egypt, must step down immediately in order for a transition to a new government to effectively begin.
Mr. Obama said that he had spoken to Mr. Mubarak twice in recent days and had urged him to consider his own legacy as he decides what to do in the coming weeks and months.
“Each time, I have emphasized that the future of Egypt is going to be in the hands of Egyptians,” the president told reporters at a news conference with Stephen Harper, the prime minister of Canada.
“I have also said that in light of what’s happened the last two weeks, going back to the old ways is not going to work,” Mr. Obama said. “Suppression is not going to work. Engaging in violence is not going to work.”
Mr. Obama reiterated the United States concern about the recent violence in Egypt even as he confirmed that “some discussions have begun” in the Middle Eastern country about a transition to a new government.
“We continue to be crystal clear that we oppose violence as a response to this crisis,” Mr. Obama said. “Attacks on reporters are unacceptable. Attacks on human rights activist are unacceptable. Attacks on peaceful protesters are unacceptable.”
Mr. Obama declined to go into details about his administration’s contacts with Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak or other parts of his government. But the American president said his staff is “consulting widely” in the search for “a successful and orderly transition.”
The president expressed relief that more violence did not materialize in Cairo Friday as thousands of protesters packed the central square for an 11th day.
“We want to see this moment of turmoil turn into a moment of opportunity,” Mr. Obama said. “I am confident the Egyptian people will shape the future they deserve.”
Mr. Obama said Mr. Mubarak had already made a “psychological break” from three decades of leadership by announcing that he will not stand for reelection later this year. Now, he said, the Egyptian president needs to think about what his legacy is.
“I believe that President Mubarak cares about his country,” Mr. Obama said. “He is proud, but he is also a patriot.”
3:56 P.M. |Bloggers Report From Encampment in Tahrir Square
Mosa’ab Elshamy, an Egyptian blogger and activist in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, reports on his @mosaaberizing Twitter feed:
Loads of people intending on sleeping in Tahrir tonight. Learnt from the mistake of leaving on Tuesday which made thugs’ job easier.
Earlier on Friday, another activist and blogger, Mona Seif, who writes on Twitter as @monasosh, described the demonstration in the square this way:
u can’t believe how amazing it is, crowd is HUGE, lines of ppl extending over Kasr el nile bridge & beyond. Tahrir rocks wt Egyptians.
Later, Ms. Seif posted a link to an image from Al Jazeera of protesters remaining the square and wrote:
Night is falling, Tahrir Square is still a liberated zone :)
Tahrir Square is the safest area in Cairo, just becoz it is the one area totally free of any interference of Mubarak’s regime
Matthew Cassel, a Beirut-based American photojournalist and Internet activist who is in Cairo, reported from the square on his @justimage feed:
Egyptian revolutionaries have turned Hardee’s at Tahrir Square into a drinking water distribution point.
That outlet of the American fast-food chain in the central Cairo square can be seen in this photograph of the crowds packed into Tahrir on Friday afternoon, uploaded to TwitPic by an Egyptian blogger who writes as @Beleidy.
Mr. Cassel, who commented earlier on Friday: “Egyptians became professional revolutionaries in only a week.”
He also posted this remarkable video, shot on Thursday, of the opposition protesters defending the approach to Tahrir Square near the Egyptian Museum from rock-throwing regime supporters on a highway overpass.
1:46 P.M. |Egyptian Blogger’s Video Shows Cairo Protest
These video clips, uploaded to YouTube by an Egyptian blogger named Kamal Nabil, show Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Friday, filled with hundreds of thousands of opposition protesters:
1:05 P.M. |Egyptian Blogger Reports His Own Arrest on Twitter
In a sign that the position of Egypt’s military is still far from clear, after Friday’s mass demonstration in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, Wael Abbas, a well-known Egyptian blogger and journalist, reported on Twitter late in the day that he had been “arrested by the army!”
Just minutes ago, after about an hour of radio silence on his feed to the social network, Mr. Abbas posted a new update, reading: “army released us, but getting stopped by every single checkpoint.”
Before his run-in with the military, the blogger had spent much of Friday filing live video clips of Cairo’s Tahrir Square, and the barricades across streets that lead to it, which are still manned by opposition protesters.
One feature of Bambuser, the mobile-broadcasting site Mr. Abbas was using to transmit his video from the square, is that it also provides a map showing the exact location of the phone sending the images. Theoretically, this could also allow the Egyptian authorities to track the movements of any blogger using the service to broadcast live video of the protests.
12:05 P.M. |Detained Rights Advocates Still Missing
As The Lede reported, witnesses in Cairo said Egyptian military police officers had detained and beaten human rights advocates after raiding their offices on Thursday.
My colleague David Goodman reports that the rights advocates are still missing:
As many as 30 people — including some of the country’s most prominent human rights advocates, researchers from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International and journalists — were still being detained by the Egyptian government on Friday after Egyptian security police raided the Hisham Mubarak Law Center in Cairo on Thursday.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said no direct contact had been made with those detained and their whereabouts remained unknown, though there was an indication that they were being held at an army camp in a suburb of the capital. Representatives visited the camp, but the army refused to provide information, the groups said.
“We’ve now got firm information as to where they’re being detained,” said Malcolm Smart of Amnesty International, but “no official confirmation of their arrest.”
Amnesty International released details of the disturbing circumstances surrounding the arrests on Thursday. “Eyewitnesses reported that those arrested were hooded as they were taken from the building and driven away in by plainclothes security officers in unmarked cars,” the group said in a statement.
Ahdaf Soueif, an Egyptian novelist whose brother-in-law is a lawyer at the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, told The Arabist, a Cairo-based blog that witnesses told her:
The people were being beaten and the street had been told they were “Iranian and Hamas agents come to destabilize Egypt,” so the street was chanting against them.
After the arrests, the mobile phone of one of the detained advocates, Dan Williams of Human Rights Watch, was used to place a call to a journalist, who answered but was met with silence on the other end of the line.
About an hour ago, Emma Daly of Human Rights Watch reported on Twitter that Mr. Williams and the advocates from Amnesty International and the Egyptian center “may be in military police Camp 75 in Manshiyet el-Bakri, Cairo.”
A statement from Human Rights Watch explained:
Among more than 30 arrested, those detained include: Daniel Williams, a Human Rights Watch researcher; Said Haddadi, an Amnesty International researcher and a female colleague; Ahmed Seif Al Islam, the former director of the Hisham Mubarak Law Center; a French journalist and a Portuguese journalist; and at least nine other lawyers associated with the Hisham Mubarak Law Center or volunteers from the Front to Defend Egypt’s Protesters. Eyewitnesses outside the building where the detainees were arrested said they were taken away with a military escort.
Local colleagues of the arrested Egyptian lawyers believe that the group is being detained by the military police at Camp 75, a military camp located in Manshiyet el-Bakri, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Cairo. When lawyers went to Camp 75 and requested access to their detained colleagues, the army officials refused to confirm that they had any of the missing in detention.
11:35 A.M. |Arab Leader Joined Protesters in Cairo Square
My colleague David Kirkpatrick, The Times bureau chief in Cairo, reports:
With signs of fracturing within Egypt’s ruling elite, hundreds of thousands of people packed Cairo’s central Tahrir Square on Friday, chanting slogans, bowing in prayer and waving Egyptian flags to press a largely peaceful campaign for the removal of President Hosni Mubarak. [...]
Amr Moussa, the secretary general of the Arab League and a former foreign minister serving Mr. Mubarak, appeared among the crowds in Tahrir Square, seeming to align himself with the protest. Twice he sought to address the crowd, but both times he was drowned out by roars of approval at what seemed a tacit endorsement of their cause.
Mr. Moussa told The BBC why he joined the protesters in Tahrir Square: “The demonstrators have their voice loud and clear in asking for change and asking for reform. They are asking for a new era in Egypt and those demands and aspirations, I do share. Egypt needs a new beginning.”
The independent Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm reported:
Earlier on Friday, Moussa said he is not ruling out running for presidency in September. He said he believes President Mubarak would not leave the country but remain until the end of his term in August. He also expressed readiness to play a role should a transitional governing body be formed.
Other prominent personalities have joined the protesters, including reform advocate Mohamed ElBaradei, former presidential candidate Ayman Nour, as well as several opposition figures and cinema stars.
Mohamed Rafah Tahtawy, the public spokesman for Al Azhar — the center of Sunni Muslim learning and Egypt’s highest, state-run religious authority — also joined the protesters in Tahrir Square on Friday, after resigning because, he said, “I am participating in the protests and I have issued statements that support the revolutionists as far as they go.”
10:58 A.M. |‘We Will Call Their Grandfathers’
As we reported in our 8:38 a.m. update, one of the young Internet activists who helped organize the protests, Asmaa Mahfouz, told The BBC that she has gotten death threats from members of President Hosni Mubarak’s ruling party.
If those phone calls did come from the ruling party, that gives new meaning to what Egypt’s intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, said in an interview with Christiane Amanpour of ABC News on Thursday, when he was asked how the regime would stop the protests.
Mr. Suleiman, who was recently appointed vice president by Mr. Mubarak, said that the government would urge the demonstrators he cast as feckless young people to leave the streets: “We will call them, we will not use any violence against them, we will ask them to go home and we will ask their parents to ask them to come home.” When Ms. Amanpour pointed out that some young people have been joined on the streets by their parents, the 74-year-old Mr. Suleiman said: “We will call their grandfathers.”
Ms. Amanpour’s interview with Mr. Suleiman followed a meeting with Mr. Mubarak, who is 82.
While the two elderly leaders seem keen to ignore all evidence that their opponents are not just young people, it is true that the calls for change have been sparked by new leaders about half a century younger than them.
Ms. Mahfouz, the Facebook activist turned 26 on Tuesday, during the mass rally marking the start of the protest movement’s second week. She is a member of what Egyptians’ call the April 6 Youth, a group of activists and bloggers who have been using the Web to lay the foundations for a mass protest movement for the past three years. Two years ago, Samantha Shapiro concluded a profile of the activists for The New York Times Magazine with these observations:
By organizing online, the April 6 movement avoids some of the pitfalls of party politics in Egypt — censorship, bureaucracy, compromise with the regime. But whenever the movement’s members try to migrate offline, they find they are still playing by Egypt’s rules. They almost never meet in real life, certainly not in large groups, and when they do, the police often show up.
Online, members of the movement are casting votes on the Web site’s walls, publishing notes with their views on the political situation and creating groups to draft a constitution for their movement. But what does it mean to have a vibrant civil society on your computer screen and a police state in the street? When I spoke to Nora Younis, she described the April 6 strike as a practice session for the new generation. “It’s a rehearsal for a bigger thing,” she said. “Right now, we are just testing the power of each other.”
10:00 A.M. |Live Video From Cairo, But Attacks on Reporters Go On
This MSNBC feed of live video from central Cairo’s Tahrir (Liberation) Square shows the mass demonstration against President Hosni Mubarak’s regime:
My colleagues Jeremy Peters and David Goodman report that even though international broadcasters were permitted to resume live coverage of the protests in the square, attacks on reporters have not ended:
Live television footage of Cairo’s central Tahrir Square resumed Friday, but it appeared that some foreign journalists were still being detained, and fresh reports of attacks on reporters and news organizations suggested that the effort to stifle the flow of news out of Egypt had slowed but not ended.
As tens of thousands of protesters surged into the square, the epicenter of antigovernment demonstrations that began last month, broadcasters trained their cameras on the gathering throngs after having been largely prevented from doing so on Thursday, when attacks on journalists and human rights workers hit a peak. Egyptian state media began showing footage of the peaceful antigovernment protests in an apparent first.
The Al Jazeera television network said that the Cairo office of its Arabic service had been stormed by “a gang of thugs.”
“The office has been burned along with the equipment inside it,” the network said in a statement. “Al Jazeera has also faced unprecedented levels of interference in its broadcast signal as well as persistent and repeated attempts to bring down its Web sites.”
Al Arabiya, whose journalists were chased from their Cairo office by pro-Mubarak demonstrators on Thursday, reported that the Egyptian army had been told on Friday to step in to protect foreign journalists. A photographer working for The New York Times was briefly detained by police and released. There were scattered reports of journalists being harassed and threatened on the street by groups of men. One reported being robbed at knifepoint by a group of men.
Journalists working for Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper were among those attacked on Friday, as they covered a rally of regime supporters in a well-off part of Cairo where some government advisers live. The newspaper reported a short time ago:
Globe and Mail reporters Sonia Verma and Patrick Martin were rushed by a crowd of loyalists to President Hosni Mubarak. At the time, Ms. Verma was filming the group march along a street in the upscale Mohandessin neighborhood.
Ms. Verma gave this vivid, first-hand report on the incident in a series of updates to her @soniaverma Twitter feed in the past two hours:
We have just encountered thousands of pro-Mubarak supporters walking down the blvd. in Mohandassin.
Another close call. Too close this time. We are fine. More soon.
They are talking about the mob that just attacked me on Egyptian radio.
To the men who saved [me] today, shooting into the air to fight back the crowd, shukran. And to the family who let us hide in their home, shukran. You are the true Egypt.
The police acknowledged to me the pro-Mubarak mob gets paid.
The pro-Mubarak crowds are ruthless: Some observations: They are armed, not just with sticks, but with guns.
They are well-organized, moving in a coordinated way towards Tahrir. They are timing their arrival, stopping to build numbers before moving.
They helped us: A police man, a security guard and a woman with four children who gave us shelter. “We will not let them hurt you.”
The army is absolutely everywhere. Outside Tahrir Square, the city is dead quiet. Pro-Mubarak crowd not allowed across the Nile.
There were no other journos in Mohandissin. All young men. I know there are reasonable Egyptians that are pro-Mubarak. This mob is different.
It was also in Mohandissin on Wednesday that a BBC crew was met by an angry group of Mubarak supporters the moment they left an interview at the apartment of a Mubarak adviser, Maged Botros. The crew was then detained and blindfolded by the Egyptian police before eventually being allowed to go.
9:05 A.M. |Brief Clash Reported Near Cairo Square
Evan Hill, an Al Jazeera English Web producer reporting on Twitter from the central Cairo area around Tahrir Square, described a brief clash near barricades manned by opposition protesters. About 30 minutes ago, Mr. Hill wrote:
Rock throwing between protesters and Mubarak supporters has erupted in Talaat Harb Square. Talaat Harb Square East of Tahrir is chaos now but the barricade itself not under attack, the fighting is in the street.
Just 10 minutes later, he reported that the clash was over:
The protesters have beaten back pro-Mubarak crowd at Talaat Harb and now the whole street is chanting “the people want the system to fall.”
As the mass antigovernment demonstration continues in Tahrir, the BBC live blog notes that a far smaller rally, of about 2,000 Mubarak supporters, is taking place in Mustafa Mahmoud Square, about three miles away, across the Nile in the Giza district of greater Cairo. Islam Saad reports for The BBC: “They are waving Egyptian flags and chanting: ‘Yes to Mubarak, yes to stability. 30 years of peace.’”
Mustafa Mahmoud Square was the site of a pro-Mubarak rally on Wednesday as well. As The Lede reported, the government sent Egyptians text messages urging them to attend the rally in Mustafa Mahmoud Square that day.
This Google map shows the location of the two rallies in Cairo: the small gathering in Mustafa Mahmoud Square (marked with a B on the map) and the large demonstration in Tahrir Square (marked with an A).
This video report from Evan Hill of Al Jazeera shows the crowd at the pro-Mubarak rally on Wednesday, before some members of the crowd marched to Tahrir Square and attacked the opposition protesters there:
8:38 A.M. |New Threats and Attacks on Opposition and Bloggers
While Egypt’s military has allowed protesters to gather in central Cairo and foreign journalists have been able to report on the demonstration, there are several reports that threats and intimidation against the opposition and reporters have continued.
The BBC live blog on the protests reported in the last hour:
Prominent activist Asma Mahfouz, one of the Tahrir Square demonstration’s leaders, says she has received death threats from members of the ruling NDP party. She told BBC Arabic TV: “I made a video asking people not to be scared, asking how long will we live in fear, that we should go to the streets and that there are plenty of men in Egypt, and we can protect ourselves from Mubarak’s thugs. But now I’m getting many threatening calls from Mubarak’s people ordering me not to leave my home, and saying that if I do I will be killed along with my family.”
As my colleague Mona El-Naggar reported this week, Ms. Mahfouz is one of the founders of the April 6 Youth Movement, a group of young, Internet-savvy activists who have been credited with a leading role in organizing the mass protests. In a Web video call to action posted online one week before the protest on Jan. 25 that began the wave of protests, the 26-year-old told Egyptians: “Do not be afraid.”
Here is a copy of that video, posted on YouTube by a blogger who added English subtitles:
Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, a columnist for The National, an Abu Dhabi newspaper whose @SultanAlQassemi Twitter feed has been an invaluable source of information on the protests, reported about an hour ago that Mohamed ElBaradei, a leading opposition figure, said in an interview on Al Jazeera’s main Arabic channel on Friday: “I met with nine protest leaders last night. When they left my house they were all arrested, these are Mubarak’s promises.”
According to Mr. Qassemi’s Twitter summary, Mr. ElBaradei also said that statements by the Mubarak regime’s new vice president, Omar Suleiman, that he has already begun talks with the opposition, are false:
No one from the regime called me. They are trying to break the opposition parties ranks. These are all tricks.
Egyptians may be poor but they are smart. They want a new state built on democracy & the respect for human rights….
If he thinks there will be chaos after he leaves then this is a point against him not for him
This trick that the Muslim Brotherhood will take over Egypt is not true, they don’t have a majority in Egypt.
There will not be theocracy in Egypt (Wilayat Faqih like Iran) after Mubarak leaves.
7:55 A.M. |Egyptian Military Helps Secure Protest Site in Cairo
Reports from Cairo say that a “festive atmosphere” has returned to antigovernment protests, as tens of thousands of Egyptians stream into Cairo’s central Tahrir (Liberation) Square for a mass rally on what they are calling the “Friday of Departure” for President Hosni Mubarak.
In stark contrast to the scenes of chaotic street battles around the square over the previous two days, when opposition protesters successfully defended their encampment against attacks by regime supporters hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails at them, the square was peaceful on Friday because Egypt’s military set up checkpoints around the entrances to the square, frisking anyone who wanted to enter. People who want to join the demonstration are then required to pass through security checkpoints set up by the protesters themselves, who want to root out agitators.
As my colleague Anthony Shadid reports from Cairo, a high-profile member of the government, the defense minister, Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, “appeared in the square on Friday — the first member of the ruling government elite to do so. As he inspected troops there, protesters cheers him and formed a human chain in order, they said, to prevent any hostile action against him.”
The sudden improvement in the security situation and the defense minister’s appearance in the square came hours after my colleagues Helene Cooper and Mark Landler reported from Washington that he is one of the senior Egyptian officials the Obama administration wants to lead a post-Mubarak transitional government. Their report, “White House, Egypt Discuss Plan for Mubarak’s Exit,” began:
The Obama administration is discussing with Egyptian officials a proposal for President Hosni Mubarak to resign immediately and turn over power to a transitional government headed by Vice President Omar Suleiman with the support of the Egyptian military, administration officials and Arab diplomats said Thursday.
Even though Mr. Mubarak has balked, so far, at leaving now, officials from both governments are continuing talks about a plan in which Mr. Suleiman, backed by Lt. Gen. Sami Enan, chief of the Egyptian armed forces, and Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, the defense minister, would immediately begin a process of constitutional reform.
The proposal also calls for the transitional government to invite members from a broad range of opposition groups, including the banned Muslim Brotherhood, to begin work to open up the country’s electoral system in an effort to bring about free and fair elections in September, the officials said.