‘MUBARAK, MUBARAK THE PLANE AWAITS’ – Egyptian masses tell president to go


Tens of thousands of defiant Egyptians occupying Cairo’s Tahriri (Liberation) Square chanted ‘Mubarak, Mubarak, the plane awaits’ on the sixth day of their people’s revolution against President Husni Mubarak’s regime.

Embattled Mubarak on Saturday named military intelligence chief Omar Suleiman as his first-ever vice-president and also a new premier, Ahmed Shafiq, but protesters dismissed the moves as too little, too late.

Both men are stalwarts of Egypt’s military establishment.

As fighter jets and a helicopter flew low over the capital, protesters in Cairo on Sunday yelled:

‘Mubarak, Omar Suleiman, Ahmed Shafiq must go.

‘The regime has been in power for 30 years, that is enough.’

Commenting on Mubarak’s political appointments, leading dissident Mohamed ElBaradei said the move was insufficient.

‘I tell President Mubarak and his regime to leave Egypt as soon as possible. It will be better for Egypt and for you,’ he said.

Opposition groups have charged ElBaradei with negotiating with embattled Mubarak’s regime, an opposition movement leader said.

The army refrained from attacking the crowd and jubilant demonstrators bore an army officer in uniform high on their shoulders, while army vehicles drove around with ‘No to Mubarak’ spray painted on their flanks in Arabic.

There was a heavy military presence in the city, but soldiers were not intervening.

Clashes over the past days between protesters and the 300,000 riot police are reported to have left at least 100 people dead across Egypt since rallies began on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, thousands of inmates were freed from prisons across Egypt on Sunday as workers broke open the jails.

Thirty-four leaders from the Muslim Brotherhood were freed from the Wadi Natrun jail after guards abandoned their posts.

Several thousand prisoners during the night overwhelmed guards at Wadi Natrun prison north of Cairo – and spilled out into nearby towns and villages.

There were also reports of several prisons across the country being attacked and of fresh protests being staged in cities like Alexandria and Suez.

Ex-interior minister Habib al-Adli was urgently evacuated on Sunday from the ministry building in the centre of Cairo amid gunfire.

Al-Adli was dismissed by Mubarak along with the other Cabinet members on Saturday.

The ex-interior minister is accused of ordering police to open fire on protesters.

More than ten protesters were killed in clashes with police near the Egyptian Interior Ministry building in Cairo in the early hours of Sunday.

A crowd of protesters had been trying to storm the building.

The outgoing information minister has ordered the closure of pan-Arab satellite channel Al Jazeera, the official MENA news agency said on Sunday.

Anas al-Fikki ‘ordered the closure of all activities by Al Jazeera in the Arab republic of Egypt, and the annulment of its licences, as well as withdrawing the press cards to all its employees as of (Sunday),’ MENA said.

Al Jazeera was still broadcasting when the announcement was made.

The Doha-based news channel said in a statement: ‘Al Jazeera sees this as an act designed to stifle and repress the freedom of reporting by the network and its journalists.

‘In this time of deep turmoil and unrest in Egyptian society it is imperative that voices from all sides be heard; the closing of our bureau by the Egyptian government is aimed at censoring and silencing the voices of the Egyptian people.’

It added: ‘Al Jazeera Network is appalled at this latest attack by the Egyptian regime to strike at its freedom to report independently on the unprecedented events in Egypt.’

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in Jerusalem on Sunday that Israel is carefully watching developments in Egypt and its efforts are focused on maintaining the ‘stability and security’ of the region.

The Rafah crossing between southern Gaza and Egypt was closed on Sunday, a Palestinian official said, adding that Egyptian officials had left the border following the spiralling political unrest.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon meanwhile called for ‘restraint, non-violence and respect for fundamental rights’ in Egypt, addressing the African Union summit that opened in Addis Ababa.

The United States said on Saturday that Mubarak should carry out ‘real reform’ beyond a government reshuffle, as the US president met top aides on the crisis and anti-Mubarak protests spread to US cities.

President Barack Obama ‘reiterated our focus on opposing violence and calling for restraint; supporting universal rights; and supporting concrete steps that advance political reform within Egypt,’ a White House statement said.

Many countries have warned against all but essential travel to Egypt, while travel agents were scrambling to secure flights for tourists huddled at Cairo airport.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said on Friday: ‘What is happening in Egypt raises serious concerns in Moscow.’

He said the most important challenge was making sure the developing situation in Egypt does not become unlawful.

‘We are convinced that this is the only way to restore stability in the country, to ensure the interests of all segments of the population and to find solutions to pressing problems,’ he said.

Lukashevich said the Russian Embassy had no information that Russian citizens had been caught up in the street clashes and reiterated earlier Foreign Ministry advice that Russians in Egypt remain indoors.

• Some 300 people in Turkey peacefully rallied outside the Egyptian consulate in Istanbul on Sunday in order to demand the resignation of the embattled Egyptian President Husni Mubarak.

Many of protesters who responded to a call by various Turkish groups, waved photographs of Mubarak, chanting ‘Mubarak must go, oppression must end,’ ‘Mubarak, puppet of the United States.’

‘We salute the people of Egypt who have begun a glorious uprising against oppression and treason and we announce our solidarity with their blessed resistance,’ said a speaker at the gathering.