An Egyptian Revelation: New Years Eve to Ground Hog Day
UNCENSORED NEWS | February 3, 2011 at 11:01 amby
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Heavy gunfire is being heard in Cairo's Tahrir (Liberation) Square as pro-democracy demonstrators continue to defy curfew in the Egyptian capital. Ambulances were seen heading to the area on Thursday morning and at least two fatalities were reported. Protesters from the pro-democracy and pro-government camps fought pitched battles on Wednesday in Tahrir Square, the epicentre of demonstrations against Hosni Mubarak for the past nine days. At least three people were reported to have died and more than 1,500 others injured in those clashes, according to officials and doctors quoted by the Reuters news agency. An Al Jazeera correspondent, reporting from just outside Tahrir Square late on Wednesday night, said dozens of pro-Mubarak supporters erected barricades on either side of a road, trapping the pro-democracy supporters. They were gathering stones, breaking streetlights and using balaclavas to cover their faces, apparently in preparation for a fresh standoff with the pro-democracy crowd. Our correspondent said local residents thought the men preparing for the standoff were police officers but the claim could not be independently confirmed.
With churches already having cancelled. Christmas masses in due to the threat of violence from extremist Islamic terror groups, violence erupted in Egypt on New Year’s Eve when a powerful bomb exploded in an Alexandria church. The bomb detonated as a crowd was exiting the church and killed at least 21 people and wounded many others. Al-Qaida was a potential suspect in the bombing, which would put quite a wrinkle in Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s future plans. Mubarak has long claimed that the terror network has little footing in his country. On Saturday afternoon, after the bombing occurred, Coptic Christian youths protested the bombings and hurled rocks at riot police, who then opened fire with tear gas and rubber bullets. Christians have long complained of discrimination in Egypt, where they are a distinct minority. There is now a very real worry that al-Qaida will use the bombing to further drive a wedge between the Muslim majority and Christian minority to gain a foothold in Egypt. Noted Marco Boutros, a 17-year-old survivor of the bombing, "The last thing I heard was a powerful explosion and then my ears went deaf. All I could see were body parts scattered all over – legs and bits of flesh." It was, indeed, not the way that the worshippers wanted to welcome the new year. Adel Labib, the governor of Alexandria, pinned the blame on al-Qaida almost immediately, using previous threats by the group as evidence of their involvement. In the past, attacks on Christians in Egypt have been distinctly less advanced, but the bomb used in the New Year’s attack was quite sophisticated.
About 33 feet separated Amr Hassan, a theater director, from death in Sunday’s bombing in old Cairo -- the capital's first deadly terrorist attack in three years. “I had a rehearsal right behind al Hussein mosque," Hassan said in an interview today. "I was waiting for the executive director in front of the mosque so we could go together to rehearsal. I was standing [about 33 feet] away from the blast. “The minute the bomb exploded, we heard a terrifying noise and a blue oracle covered the place. A minute earlier, I saw a beggar. ... The beggar was terribly injured and he had definitely died. I saw his body thrown [about 13 feet] into the air. Everybody rushed; tourists were terrified, they were running in all directions. Victims were lying on the ground with injuries to faces and legs. "The police were watching a football game on TV at coffee shops when the explosion happened. The timing must have been well calculated [by the perpetrators]; the police were very relaxed ahead of the bombing." The bombing that rocked the Khan el Khalili bazaar, one of Cairo’s most famous tourist sites, left one French woman killed and 24 injured, according to Egyptian health ministry officials. Three suspects have reportedly been arrested. No group has claimed responsibility. There were conflicting reports on the reason behind the explosion. Some reports claimed that a bomb was thrown from the top of a building while others said that the explosion occurred when a bomb hidden beneath a stone bench was detonated. Hassan found the latter account more conceivable; however, he believed the death toll was higher. “I don’t think the bomb was thrown from the top because we would have noticed it before it hit the ground," he said. "I don’t think there was only one killed. ... The beggar’s body was lying right next to the French woman who was killed. I saw the police telling the rescuers to remove the woman’s body first. We as Egyptians are always left behind; were not they both victims? Why would the police remove the body of one and wait on the other?"
Fighter jets swooped low over Cairo Sunday in what appeared to be an attempt by the military to show its control of a city beset by looting, armed robbery and anti-government protests. Minutes before the start of a 4 p.m. curfew, at least two jets appeared and made multiple passes over downtown, including a central square where thousands of protesters were calling for the departure of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Police could be seen returning to some streets nearly two days after virtually disappearing, creating a security vacuum only partially filled by the presence of army troops backed by tanks at key sites around this city of 18 million people. After days of escalating chaos, gangs of armed men attacked at least four jails across Egypt before dawn, helping to free hundreds of Muslim militants and thousands of other inmates. Gangs of young men with guns and large sticks smashed cars and robbed people in Cairo. Banks were closed on orders from Egypt's Central Bank, and the stock market was shut on what is normally the first day of the trading week. Markets across the Middle East dropped on fears about the instability's damage to Egypt's economy, and the region's. Al Jazeera was ordered to shut down in Cairo, and according to Reuters, more than 100 have died since the protests began.
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