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Mass Anti-Government Protests Rock Egypt

Source: VOA

Tens of thousands of protesting Egyptians flooded into the streets after Friday prayers in mounting demonstrations calling for an end to President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule.

Video footage of protests

Security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets, and hit protesters with sticks in central Cairo, where some of the larger demonstrations are taking place. Trucks of police armed with water cannons lined avenues in the city as government forces attempted to disperse crowds.

Television video has shown protesters on a bridge in Cairo throwing rocks at an armored security vehicle in an attempt to force the vehicle's driver to turn around. Elsewhere, large groups of chanting demonstrators marched through the streets shaking their raised fists.

Protests are also taking place in Alexandria and several other cities.

The Associated Press says Egyptian authorities fired water cannons at Mohamad ElBaradei, a Nobel peace laureate who returned to Egypt from Austria Thursday saying he was willing to lead an opposition movement. Police confronted ElBaradei and his supporters Friday as they attempted to join protests in Cairo. Western news reports say police blocked him inside of a mosque where he had gone for Friday prayers.

Internet service, a key tool for activists, was shut down across the country shortly after midnight. Cell phone text messaging and data plans were also disabled. Telecom company Vodafone says the Egyptian government ordered all mobile telephone operators to suspend service in parts of the country.

Egypt's largest opposition group, the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, says at least five senior leaders and five former members of parliament were arrested in raids.

The group has said it will join protests, but has not organized the demonstrations that have been spearheaded by young people angry at poor living standards and authoritarian rule.

At least five people have been killed and the government says 800 people have been detained since Tuesday. Human rights groups say there have been more than 2,000 arrests.

The 82-year-old Egyptian president has not been seen or heard from since the protests began Tuesday with tens of thousands marching in Cairo and other cities.

In Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama said political reforms were "absolutely critical" to Egypt's "long-term well-being," boosting pressure on Mr. Mubarak to implement changes while acknowledging he is a critical U.S. ally.
In his first comments on the unrest in Egypt, Mr. Obama on Thursday urged the government and the protesters to refrain from violence.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

... Payvand News - 01/28/11 ... --

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