Egypt Masses Defiant

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Tens of thousands of defiant Egyptian workers and youth yesterday remained in control of the centre of Cairo, during a sixth day of protests demanding the end of President Hosni Mubarak and his brutal regime.

Two air force jets and a helicopter flew low over Tahrir (Liberation) Square, the main gathering point for demonstrators.

A column of tanks has arrived in the square only to have its path blocked by demonstrators.

But the crowd stood their ground and soldiers are developing solidarity with the uprising.

At one stage, jubilant protesters were seen carrying an army officer on their shoulders in Tahrir Square, standing their ground, despite troops firing into the air in a bid to disperse them.

Protesters erupted into applause and climbed onto a tank in celebration, hugging soldiers.

The riot police have withdrawn and gone into plain clothes, attempting to spread fears of looting.

The masses have broken open several prisons across the country and freed thousands of prisoners, while protests continued in other cities, including Alexandria and Port Suez which has been taken over by protesters.

Thirty-four Muslim Brothers, including leaders of the banned Islamist group, left Abu Zaabal prison in Cairo unhindered after guards abandoned their posts, one of their lawyers said.

The protesters in Cairo, were joined by hundreds of judges.

The security situation in the capital prompted meetings between interior minister Habib al Adli, defence minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, and newly appointed vice president Omar Soliman, state television reported.

In the absence of police and military, Cairo’s wealthy were arming themselves with clubs, batons, sticks, machetes and knives to protect their property.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s opposition groups have agreed to support opposition figure Mohamed El-Baradei to negotiate with the government, a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood said yesterday.

But the masses will not be content with a transitional regime which can do nothing to alleviate their poverty.

Workers set up their own checkpoints to defend against provocations by plain clothes police and right-wing vigilantes.

Hundreds of young men carted away televisions, fans and stereo equipment from the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) headquarters near the Egyptian Museum, before setting the building alight.

The revolution has disturbed the US and European governments who have called on Mubarak to ‘show restraint’ and advised their citizens to leave Egypt.

The Israeli embassy was evacuated on Saturday, with diplomats’ families flown home, and remained closed yesterday.

Israeli premier Netanyahu is monitoring the situation ‘closely’, instructing his cabinet ministers not to make statements on Egypt, and there are reports of an Israeli Army call-up.