Egypt Cracks Down On Mass Protests As Mubarak Dissolves Government

Mubarak: Says he will appoint new government tomorrow but gives no indication he will step down

Mubarak Announces He Is Dismissing The Government           Egypt Cracks Down On Mass Protests As Mubarak Dissolves GovernmentEmbattled President Hosni Mubarak said early Saturday that he asked the country's government to resign after thousands of angry Egyptians defied a government curfew and faced stinging police tear gas as they marched for change.

"I asked the government to resign today and I will commission a new government to take over tomorrow," Mubarak said in a national address on Saturday shortly after midnight.

Mubarak gave no indication that he would step down or leave the country.

"I assure you that I'm working for the people and giving freedoms of opinion as long as you're respecting the law," he said. "There is very little line between freedom and chaos."

The streets of downtown Cairo appeared to calm somewhat overnight Friday. But the sounds of gunfire rang out earlier in the evening near a Cairo police station on which protesters had converged, and in the coastal city of Alexandria.

The government cracked down throughout Friday with thousands of riot and plainclothes police, later joined by army troops in tanks and armored personnel carriers equipped with gun turrets.

Undeterred, people ran, screamed, hurled rocks and accosted walls of security as they tried to make their way to central Cairo.

As Friday night wore on, however, CNN's Ben Wedeman said that a calm was settling in downtown Cairo amid little sign of authority.

"There is no authority ... there's nobody to protest against," Wedeman said, speaking of the capital's downtown area. "State authority in much of downtown Cairo has disappeared."

Mubarak imposed a nationwide curfew from 6 p.m. Friday to 7 a.m. Saturday. State-run Nile TV said the curfew was in response to the "hooliganism and lawlessness" of the protesters.

Vans packed with riot police circled Cairo neighborhoods before the start of weekly prayers in the afternoon. Later in the day, Egyptian soldiers moved onto the streets, the first time the army has been deployed to quell unrest since 1985.

But protesters, fed up with economic woes and a lack of freedoms, defied all warnings to demand an end to Mubarak's authoritarian 30-year-rule.

They chanted "God is Great" and that the dictator must go. "Down, Down, Mubarak," they shouted.

Plumes of rancid, thick smoke billowed over the Nile River as, by day's close, chaos reigned in the bustling metropolis. The headquarters of the ruling National Democratic Party was ablaze Friday night. Nile TV said protesters ransacked the building and set it afire.

Police fired water cannons, rubber bullets and tear gas with force and impunity. A tourist on the balcony of his 18th floor hotel room told CNN he had to run in and wash his eyes and face from the stinging gas.

Police confiscated cameras from people, including guests at the Hilton Hotel.

At least six people have died in the demonstrations this week, according to Egypt's Interior Ministry. But Nile TV reported Friday that 13 have died and 75 were injured in Suez, south of Cairo, citing medical sources

As the government cracked down on protesters across Egypt, opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei, who returned home to Cairo to join the demonstrations, was placed under house arrest, a high-level security source told CNN.

ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and former head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog agency, was warned earlier not to leave a mosque near downtown Cairo where he was attending Friday prayers.

U.S. President Barack Obama has not called Mubarak but has had multiple briefings on Egypt, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Friday afternoon.
Mubarak Announces He Is Dismissing The Government           Egypt Cracks Down On Mass Protests As Mubarak Dissolves Government
Asked if Obama stands by Mubarak, Gibbs said that "we are monitoring a very fluid sitation" and that "this is not about picking a person or picking the people for a country."

Gibbs also said that the U.S. is reviewing its aid to Egypt, saying "we will be reviewing our assistance posture based on events now and in the coming days."

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed the Egyptian crisis Friday, urging all parties to be peaceful and engage in dialogue. Egypt, a powerhouse in the region, is a key U.S. ally.

"We are deeply concerned about the use of violence by Egyptian police and security forces against protesters and we call on the Egyptian government to do everything within its power to restrain its security forces," Clinton said. "At the same time, protesters should also refrain from violence and express themselves peacefully."

She said the protests underscored "deep grievances within Egyptian society and the Egyptian government needs to understand that violence will not make these grievances go away."

Egyptian military officials who were in Washington cut short their talks at the Pentagon to head back to northern Africa, Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff, said Friday.

The Egyptian officials' meetings with their U.S. military counterparts had been scheduled to continue through Wednesday.

The protests sent ripples around the world, with stocks plunging on news of Egypt unrest. The Dow dropped 166 points on Friday, its largest loss since November.

The State Department urged Americans to defer all non-essential travel to Egypt and within the country. Delta Air Lines said its last flight from Cairo will depart Saturday; all other Cairo service was indefinitely suspended, said spokeswoman Susan Elliott.

American Airlines and British Airways will allow customers with tickets between Friday and Monday to or from Cairo to change their flights at no charge, according American Airlines spokesman Edward Martelle.

Unprecedented demonstrations have erupted across Egypt, the most populous nation in the Arab world and often a barometer for sentiment on the Arab community.

"What happens in Egypt will have an impact throughout the Arab world and the Middle East," said Edward Djerejian, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel and Syria.

In the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, at least 1,000 protesters gathered and youths hurled rocks through black clouds of gas. Crowds ran through the streets toward the city's central square. There was no indication of a curfew in that city either, as people remained out well after the time it was to begin.

In Suez, 15,000 riot police were out, using tear gas to disperse crowds, Nile TV said.

Riot police also confronted protesters in the cities and towns of Ismailia, Fayoum and Shbin Elkoum, according to the anti-government group Egyptian Liberation.

Mubarak Announces He Is Dismissing The Government           Egypt Cracks Down On Mass Protests As Mubarak Dissolves Government

In nearby Jordan, meanwhile, about 1,500 protesters amassed in downtown Amman and hundreds of others turned out in other cities, witnesses said.

Egypt's Interior Ministry forbade protests Friday, but some Egyptians went door to door in Cairo, urging their neighbors to participate. The main opposition bloc, the Muslim Brotherhood, urged its supporters for the first time to take to the streets.

A Facebookpage devoted to the demonstrations accrued nearly 88,000 followers by Friday afternoon, compared with 20,000 the previous day. Hours ahead of the protests, the internet went dark in parts of the country. Some text messaging and cell phone services appeared to be blocked.

Servers of Egypt's main internet provider were down early Friday, according to multiple services that check whether servers used by specific sites are active. Servers for the Egyptian government's sites and for the U.S. Embassy in Cairo also appeared to be down.

"We are closely monitoring the situation and are aware that communication services, including social media, are being blocked," U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Thursday. "We continue to urge Egyptian authorities to show restraint and allow peaceful protests to occur."

Even though it was difficult to use Twitter and Facebookwithin Egypt, thousands of others outside the country ran with the powerful social media tool to provide a real-time chronology of events. "Mubarak" was a trending topic.

Authorities arrested a prominent Muslim Brotherhood leader early Friday, detaining the party's main speaker, Issam al-Aryan, according to a relative. Police came to al-Aryan's Cairo home at 2:30 a.m. local time, his son-in-law said.

Other government critics voiced their opinions -- amazingly -- on state-run television.

A popular morning show on state-run Nile TV included comments from guests calling for the resignation of government officials and increased dialogue between authorities and arrested protesters.

The network carried coverage of the protests, even at times calling them large and peaceful.

They followed days of unrest that have roiled several Arab countries. Demonstrations in Tunisia led the president to flee that North African nation. Then came protests in Algeria, Egypt, Yemen and Jordan.

Essentially they are pro-democracy protests by people who are increasingly frustrated with the accumulating wealth of the elites in their respective countries, while a majority of the citizenry faces bleak economic prospects.

"They all want the same," said Emile Hokayemof the International Institute for Strategic Studies in the Middle East. "They're all protesting about growing inequalities, they're all protesting against growing nepotism. The top of the pyramid was getting richer and richer."

People are also fed up with authoritarian regimes that do not afford the people proper representation.

"Fundamentally it's a question of dignity. People's dignity has been under assault for decades," Hokayem said.

Mubarak has not been seen in public for some time. He is 82 and there has been speculation of failing health. Many Egyptians believe Mubarak is grooming his son, Gamal, as his successor, a plan that could be complicated by demands for democracy.

Four French journalists were arrested in Cairo but were later released, according to the French newspaper Le Figaro.

And a CNN crew covering the clashes in Cairo felt the wrath of the police.

CNN's Wedeman and Mary Rogers were under an overpass and behind a column as police tried to hold back protesters. Plainclothes police wielding clubs surrounded the CNN team and wanted "to haul us off," Wedeman said. In a struggle, police grabbed Rogers's camera, cracked its viewfinder, and confiscated it. Wedeman said the police threatened to beat them.