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Live blog Feb 5 - Egypt protests

From our Doha headquarters, we keep you constantly updated on Egypt, with reporting from Al Jazeera staff.
Last modified: 5 Feb 2011 00:58
Photo by AFP

From our headquarters in Doha, we keep you updated on all things Egypt, with reporting from Al Jazeera staff in Cairo and Alexandria.  Live Blog: Jan28 - Jan29 - Jan30 - Jan31 - Feb1 - Feb2 - Feb3 - Feb4

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(All times are local in Egypt, GMT+2)

11:37pm A video claiming to capture Egyptian plain clothes officers dragging Google executive Wael Ghonim away is starting to gain some traction on Youtube. Ghonim, missing for over a week, was a supporter of the April 5 youth opposition group. We can't verify if the man being dragged off, in plain daylight, is Ghonim. But the fact that it happened before a crowd of people who noticed - but could not or would not intervene - says much about the situation in Egypt. *Update: The video that was orinigally linked here has been removed from Youtube. Here is another video that apparently shows the same scene:

11:00pm Despite the cold, rainy conditions, anti-government protesters continue to stand their ground at Tahrir Square. Our correspondent says that people have been bringing tents and supplies, with people continuing to hand out food and tea.

 

9:47pm Slavoj Žižek, writing for the Guardian, takes on the “breathtaking” hypocrisy of western liberals in prioritising stability over democracy in the Arab world.

"Why fear the Arab revolutionary spirit?"

Here, then, is the moment of truth: one cannot claim, as in the case of Algeria a decade ago, that allowing truly free elections equals delivering power to Muslim fundamentalists. Another liberal worry is that there is no organised political power to take over if Mubarak goes. Of course there is not; Mubarak took care of that by reducing all opposition to marginal ornaments, so that the result is like the title of the famous Agatha Christie novel, And Then There Were None. The argument for Mubarak – it's either him or chaos – is an argument against him.

The hypocrisy of western liberals is breathtaking: they publicly supported democracy, and now, when the people revolt against the tyrants on behalf of secular freedom and justice, not on behalf of religion, they are all deeply concerned. Why concern, why not joy that freedom is given a chance? Today, more than ever, Mao Zedong's old motto is pertinent: "There is great chaos under heaven – the situation is excellent."

Where, then, should Mubarak go? Here, the answer is also clear: to the Hague. If there is a leader who deserves to sit there, it is him.

Here is Al Jazeera's Imran Garda's interview with Žižek and Tariq Ramadan:

9:21pm Interesting article, 'The Al Jazeera Moment', on The Star that highlights Al Jazeera's important role in reporting the latest news in the past weeks.

This has not gone unnoticed. Traffic to AJE’s live online streaming of its coverage has increased 2,500 per cent in the past week, with up to 60 per cent of that coming from the US.

8:47pm A picture posted online yesterday, showing how protesters in Tahrir Square charge their mobile phones. Some protesters have been camped out in the square for many days. Al Jazeera cannot verify any details of this image.

8:12pm Thousands more pro-democracy protesters flock to Tahrir Square amid reports of possible army evacuation of the square.

8:07pm Hosni Mubarak must stay in power for the time being, says Frank Wisner, Barack Obama's special envoy for Egypt. 

We need to get a national consensus around the pre-conditions for the next step forward. The president must stay in office to steer those changes.

8:01pm Al Arabiya television retracts its earlier report that Hosni Mubarak resigned as head of Egypt's ruling party.

7:33pm Al Jazeera's online producer in Cairo reports, the army is no longer negotiating to remove the protesters out off Tahrir Square, the army is still present around the square. Protesters continue to rally in Tahrir Square under the cold and rainy weather.

6:00pm General Hassan El-Rawani, the head of the army's central command, speaks to the masses in Tahrir Square urging them to leave the square, they chant back at him "We are not leaving, He [Mubarak] is leaving".

5:45pm Osama Abd Elaziz,  Al Jazeera editor, has been released from custody in Egypt.

5:36pm The leadership of Egypt's ruling National Democratic Party resigns, including Gamal Mubarak, the son of Hosni Mubarak. The new secretary general of the party is Hossam Badrawi, seen as a member of the liberal wing of the party.

5:27pm People inside Tahrir Square fear an apporaching attempt by the military to evacuate the square. A journalist there says that the army is currently not allowing people in or out from the square. The latest visit by the military official was only a media show, she said.

4:35pm 500 protesters have arrived in Tahrir Square from the port city of Suez. The protesters have called for another day of protests tomorrow called "the day of the martyred". Also on Sunday, the Copts in Egypt have called for Sunday mass to take place in Tahrir Square.

4:31pm Latest video from Cairo. It shows the Army removing the burned out police truck that has been sitting on that onramp since Friday; traffic flowing on 6th of October bridge more heavily than any other time in past 12 days, and the museum barricades still up. Its a rainy day in Cairo.

4:21pm A group of foreigners have joined the protesters in Tahrir Square, handing our flowers to the protesters in a sign of solidarity and holding up a banner in English. 

3:56pm Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state, warns that the Middle East faces a bumpy road on the transition to democracy. Read the full text of her speech here.

There are risks with the transition to democracy. (The) transition can backslide into just another authoritarian regime.

Revolutions have overthrown dictators in the name of democracy, only to see the political process hijacked by new autocrats who use violence, deception, and rigged elections to stay in power, or to advance an agenda of extremism.

3:33pm Hundreds are marching in the West Bank city of Ramallah in solidarity with the Egyptian people.

3:12pm A few thousand people have gathered today at the Qa'I'd Ibrahim Mosque in down town Alexandria.

2:52pm Activists in Tahrir Square say that the army has been negotiating the removal of the metal barricades since this morning.

2:10pm: The security situation for journalists in Cairo is still very poor, as the government is cracking down on the media. For their safety, we're not naming any of our reporters on air or in this blog.

For more on how journalists have become targets, watch the latest episode of our programme Listening Post - The media battle for Egypt.

Our web producer says the area immediately around Tahrir Square is mostly safe for journalists. But sporadic clashes continue to rage downtown just 500 metres from the square, and Egyptian contacts say many other residential neighbourhoods are not safe for journalists - gangs operate unofficial checkpoints, and some foreigners have been dragged out of their cars and assaulted.

1:45pm Egyptian security forces arrest an Al Jazeera journalist at Cairo airport.

1:34pm The latest from our web producer in Tahrir Square: "Two tanks now at museum barricade with barrels facing inward. No chance they'll fire, but it's the intimidation factor. No Mubarak people."

1:21pm Watch our report by Mohamed Shokeir on the Egyptian unrest and US media bias 

1:07pm This was just posted on Twitter from our web producer on the ground in Cairo: "Altercation at the main protester barricade by Egyptian museum. Soldiers gather at the barricade, and some protesters are hopping" and "There is also now a line of soldiers inside the square itself separating the interior from the protesters at the museum barricade."

12:59pm US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking at a security conference in Germany, says there must be clear progress toward "open, transparent, fair and accountable systems" across the Middle East not to risk even greater instability.

The region is being battered by a perfect storm of powerful trends ... This is what has driven demonstrators into the streets of Tunis, Cairo, and cities throughout the region. The status quo is simply not sustainable. 

12:44pm This video collage gathering footage from various sources, including Al Jazeera, was uploaded on YouTube by eyeinsidefilm a couple of days ago. Dramatic, to say the least. 

  

 

12:40pm One of our reporters just wrote on Twitter: "colleague counted 15 snipers on top of egyptian museum, mostly facing october 6 bridge"

12:38pm: More protests are expected in the centre of Alexandria later in the day. There will also be a funeral service in one of the suburbs for a protester who passed away yesterday after being injured in protests during Egypt's "day of anger", January 28.

12:27pm Our correspondent in Alexandria says the mood there is reminiscent of "some kind of hangover" today with quiet streets a day after hundreds of thousands took to the streets, calling on President Mubarak to step down.

 Some people are scratching their heads, wondering what more they need to do to make it clear to the president that they don't want him.

12:24pm David Cameron, the British prime minister, tells a security conference in Germany that a rapid transition to a new leadership is needed in Egypt.

There is no stability in Egypt. We need change, reform and transition to get stability ... The longer that is put off, the more likely we are to get an Egypt that we wouldn't welcome.

12:16pm Tahrir Square is calm, compared to recent days. One of our correspondent says people are queuing on Kasr al-Nil bridge to get into the square. The army is manning checkpoints, searching bags and checking IDs, to make sure no "infiltrators" can get in.

12:06pm Our correspondent in Cairo says sources tell him there are indications that the attack on a gas pipeline in northern Sinai could have been carried out by Bedouin tribes in the area. He says the pipeline, which is used for gas exports to Israel and Jordan through two different branches, is controversial for several reasons. Some think Egypt's natural resources shouldn't be sold to Israel and the Bedouin tribes in Sinai claim they don't get a fair share of the revenues. 

11:51am Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, says early elections in Egypt at start of democratic reform process is probably not the right approach. Earlier today, she called on Egyptians to show patience, saying regime change must be properly organised, citing her own experience in German reunification in 1990.

"There will be a change in Egypt, and of course a change must take place in a peaceful and a sensible way, Merkel told the Munich Security Conference in a speech.

11:36am On a light note, Walk like an Egyptian gets a new meaning in this image posted on Twitpic by rania_hafez

11:25am Mouin Rabbani, the contributing editor to Middle East Report tells Al Jazeera from Jordan that the current events in Egypt could potentially reorder regional and international alliances.

The regional implications are huge as Egypt remains the heart and soul of the Arab world.

11:12am One of our correspondents in Cairo says on Twitter that a soldier told her yesterday that the curfew, to take effect at 7pm, will be enforced strongly from tonight onwards. Since protests started, the curfew has been largely ignored, with scores of people sleeping in Tahrir Square overnight.

10:56am Our correspondent says it's still unclear who was behind the attack on a pipeline near El-Arish.

 

10:23am A source tells Reuters it was the Jordanian branch of the Sinai gas pipeline that was attacked, not the one to Israel.

10:14am Commenting on the Sinai gas pipeline attack mentioned below, our correspondent says:

It will be a great loss to the Egyptian economy which is already in struggle as a result of the stand-off that is taking place across Egypt with a lot of trade being affected.

10:03am Sources tell Al Jazeera that a small amount of explosives had been placed in a control room along the pipeline which goes from northern Sinai to Israel and Jordan. Our correspondent in Cairo says no major damage was caused to the pipeline, which goes mainly underground. A small amount of gas has been leaked but the leak has now been contained.

9:57am Al Jazeera's Ayman Mohyeldin in Cairo, following this morning's explosion in northern Sinai, says on Twitter: "No casualties in gas pipeline explosion fire now contained investigation underway"

9:54am Demonstrations expressing solidarity with the Egyptians are being held across the world today. This picture is from a rally in Tokyo, Japan.


Photo by Reuters

9:46am The Egyptian army has closed the main source of gas supplying the pipeline that was attacked in northern Sinai this morning, a security source tells Reuters.

"The armed forces and the authorities managed to close the main the source of flow and are trying to control the fires," the source said.

9:34am There are no reports of casualties in the Sinai blast.

9:30am Sources confirm to Al Jazeera that a blast has occured in northern Sinai. Residents in El-Arish says flames are raging near gas pipeline leading to Israel.

"Saboteurs took advantage of the security situation and blew up the gas pipeline," a state television correspondent reports. 

9:17am Reuters quotes Egyptian state TV as saying "terrorists" have targeted an Israel-Egypt gas pipeline in northern Sinai.

9:15am There are reports of a blast and fires in Arish in northern Sinai near a gas pipeline close to the Israeli border.

9:03am Our reporter says pro-democracy groups are getting ready for confrontations, setting up metal barriers and three layers of human walls.

8:37am Giving a feel of the festive atmosphere in Tahrir Square yesterday, this videp posted by YouTube user ScarceClips shows protesters, led by a guitar, singing a song along the lines "All of us ... one demand: leave, leave, leave. Down with Hosni Mubarak... The people want to topple the regime ... He leaves, we're not leaving".   

 

8:20am Malek has uploaded new mobile footage from Tahrir Square on the Bambuser website, showing protesters chanting next to a tanks.

8:04am Our correspondent says the situation in Tahrir Square appears to be getting "more tense" with some kind of "stand-off" - two different groups forming and troops in helmets apparently getting ready to be deployed.

7:49am There are differing reports of how many have died in the last 11 days of protests and clashes. The Egyptian health minister says 11 people have died, while the United Nations says 300 people may have been killed across the country since protests began. New agencies have counted more than 150 dead in morgues in Alexandria, Suez and Cairo.

7:35am Malek uploaded this mobile footage from Tahrir Square this morning on the Bambuser website as protesters show no signs of giving up on the twelfth day after the first demonstrations erupted on Police Day.

7:20am We just published our web producers first-hand account, including footage, of the protests and brief clashes in Tahrir Square yesterday.

7:05am Our correspondent says Tahrir Square is quiet as Cairo is waking up to a new day. A group of 30-40 soldiers seem to be having a briefing and breakfast outside the museum.

6:25am We've said it before: Egyptians from all walks of life, young and old, have joined the protests. MrPeopleNews posted this video yesterday of a five-year-old leading the chants.

6:00am The curfew, which has been widely ignored, is now officially lifted for the day, but takes effect again at 7pm tonight. That's a relaxation compared to recent days when the curfew timings were 5pm to 7am.

5:52am Al Jazeera's Camille Elhassani comments on the Obama administration's stance on Egypt in her latest blog post.

4:52am Look what just hit Twitter....


4:14am Hillary Mann Leverett, a foreign policy professor and former White House official tells Al Jazeera that the "transition process" the Obama administration seeks from Mubarak is going to be "very, very problematic". Here's why:

Omar Suleiman (Egypt's newly appointed vice president) is reviled among the Egyptian population. He is seen as the government's - the regime's - point-man in dealing with Israel, upholding Israeli policies vis-a-vis Gaza. He's seen as the regime's point-man in the so-called 'war on terror', the rendition programme that brought Egyptians from overseas back to Egypt to have enhanced interrogation done with them.

Mann Leverett says that Egypt is "the bedrock ... the centre of gravity for US policy " in the Middle East, and now, that bedrock has "fallen through the floor. She's not surprised...

The real problem here is a substantive problem in terms of US policy. That is, that the way that we, the United States government, has defined our interests in the middle east, particularly vis-a-vis what is going on in Gaza and with Israeli policies, the way we have defined those interest are unacceptable, largely, on the Arab street in many Arab populations. So it's impossible for us to call for, let alone to foresee and push for democratic outcomes. They're not in our interests...this is a failure of American policy at its very core.

3:56am Moustafa Elgindy, a member of the Egyptian Coalition for the Opposition and a former member of Egypt's parliament, said the pro-democracy protests will continue until president Hosni Mubarak leaves office.

He said the solution is a parliamentary republic with a strong army and a prime minister voted on by the people.

He spoke to Al Jazeera from Washington, DC.

 

3:11am Al Jazeera's web producer sends us a video showing the aftermath of the bloody clashes between Mubrak's supporters and pro-democracy activists. The daytime shots leave no doubt that Tahrir Square, in Cairo's centre, had turned into a war zone.

2:44am An Al Jazeera correspondent says that there are reports of more pro-Mubarak protests expected on Saturday - they're anticiapted to be larger and more organised than what we've seen in recent days.

2:00am Reuters news wire reports "heavy gunfire" in Tahrir Square, but our sources tell us that the shots were fired into the air by the military in order to clear out the area.

1:48am Pro-democracy advocate Ramy Raoof just posted a Youtube clip showing a sing along  from Friday night, where spirits seem high and protesters sing that "the television lies, the truth is here". They're anti-government protesters, referring to Egyptian state television.

1:20am AJE correspondent: Tahrir Square is now "the fullest its ever been" with a "festive atmosphere" - there's music and conversation among groups of people. Very social and calm.

12:23am The head of Al Jazeera Arabic's bureau in Cairo and another journalist have been detained in the Egyptian capital. 

12:00am Protests that have rocked Egypt are moving into a twelfth day. 

Anti-government demonstrators are still demanding an immediate end to Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule, but the president insists he will stay on until September. 

Meanwhile, state television is reporting that the government has eased the night time curfew, shortening it by three hours - though the curfew has largely been ignored by protesters who remain in Cairo's Tahrir square.