Fighter Jets Deployed Over Cairo as Demands for Hosni Mubarak's Ouster Spread
U.S. puts the pressure on government to implement reforms, and defends its role.
Jan. 30, 2011— -- Fighter jets swooped over Cairo's downtown square where demonstrators gathered for a sixth day in a row, chanting for change and calling for the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Thousands of protesters descended over Cairo's "Tahrir" (independence) Square, chanting "We won't leave until you leave," and "We will not stop," defying a government curfew that was imposed for the third day in a row to no effect. Mubarak asked his new prime minister to establish a new government that would address people's demands, but protesters say it's their president who they want to see ousted.
For Complete Coverage of the Crisis in Egypt, Featuring Exclusive Reporting From Christiane Amanpour, Click Here
The United States stepped up pressure on Mubarak's fledgling government, calling for immediate economic and social reforms and throwing its full support behind "peaceful protesters" demanding change.
"We are trying to convey a message that is very clear, that we want to ensure there is no violence and no provocation that results in violence and that we want to see these reforms and a process of national dialogue begun so that the people of Egypt can see their legitimate grievances addressed," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on "This Week with Christiane Amanpour," in the most forecful language she has used thus far.
The crisis in Egypt has left dozens dead and hundreds injured. The military beefed up its presence today, deploying convoys of tanks and Armored Personnel Vehicles to Tahrir Square and setting up checkpoints to contain the crowds.
The military reportedly arrested prisoners that had escaped from Cairo's jails but there were conflicting reports from the region regarding their role in containing disruptions. They were not seemingly enforcing the curfew in place, and Al Jazeera English reported that an army leader told crowds in Tahrir Square today that they wouldn't go against their wishes.
The military was deployed Friday at the height of this week's tension, and unlike the police, it has mostly been welcomed by the public.
Amid violent clashes, Egyptian police -- especially in Cairo -- virtually disappeared from the streets late Friday, leaving a huge vacuum in security that was filled by looters and vandals.
Across Egypt, buildings were set on fire and clashes continued between anti-government protesters and the police.
Egyptians woke up Sunday with several government buildings still smoldering and thousands of anti-government protesters remaining camped out in the main square.
Law and order broke down completely as gangs of looters and vandals stormed government buildings, stealing electronic equipment and office supplies, broke precious artifacts in the Egyptian Museum and attempted to rob luxury homes.
Gangs attacked at least four jails across Egypt before dawn, helping free hundreds of Muslim militants and thousands of other inmates as security forces disappeared. Cairo residents boarded up homes and vigilante groups have sprung up, arming themselves with guns and bats to protect their neighborhoods.
Some police forces could be seen returning today to Cairo's neighborhoods, where fearful residents remain huddled in their homes.
Egypt's embattled president, facing pressure both domestically and from abroad, was shown by Arabic television channels visiting the center of the Egyptian armed forces. This was Mubarak's first public appearance since his speech on Friday night in which he promised economic and social reforms but which had little effect of appeasing the angry crowds.
Demonstrators, angry and frustrated at the country's dire economic situation, high food prices, rising unemployment and decades of corruption and poverty, are demanding an end to Mubarak's 30-year rule that they charge has been filled with corruption.
Amid the escalating violence, a number of countries, including Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iraq, have sent charter planes and private jets to pull their citizens out of the country.
The situation in Egypt is particularly alarming to the United States. Egypt is one of United States' closest allies in the Middle East. It is only one of two Arab countries that recognizes Israel and has helped broker key peace deals. Mubarak's government has also been a close U.S. ally in the fight against terrorism, and any instability in the region could be gravely dangerous to U.S. interests in the region.
The United States advised its citizens in Egypt to consider leaving the country as soon as possible, and allowed the authorized departure of all non-essential personnel and families who want to leave. The State Department will charter one or two charter flights a day, and is expecting to evacuate 600 individuals that include non-essential embassy staff and family members.
The flights will go to Europe although the destination is not yet known.