The Egyptian army has signaled that it is willing to support the population’s right to protest and announced that it would not use force to put down legitimate demands for democratic reform.
Journalists present in Egypt have noted that the army has popular support from many protesters, unlike the police who have been accused of launching a violent crackdown on the demonstrators – Reuters has reported the deaths of at 138 people.
Hundreds and thousands of demonstrators have meanwhile packed the centre square of Cario and demanded an end to the 30 year regime of President Hosni Mubarak, a figure who’s autocratic excesses have been widely tolerated by Western powers in the interests of regional stability.
In a statement aired on state media, the Mena news agency, the military claimed that “The presence of the army in the streets is for your sake and to ensure your safety and wellbeing. The armed forces will not resort to use of force against our great people.”
The government has meanwhile cut access to the internet and mobile phone services in a bid to reduce the size of the demonstration, while yesterday authorities revoked the license of news agency Al-Jazeera, shutting its office in Cairo and withdrawing the accreditation of its staff.
“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,” the network said, promising that it would continue its coverage.
Egypt’s opposition leader, Nobel peace laureate Mohamed El Baradei, is emerging as a key personality as civil discontent skyrockets. Calling on Mubarak to leave the country “if he wants to save his skin”, El Baradei has observed that demonstrators were increasingly calling for the President to not just resign, but be put on trial for his handing of the demonstrations.
President Mohamed Nasheed spoke to the former UN weapons inspector on Sunday, emphasising that “Maldivians will always support those who are peacefully advocating for political freedom in Egypt.”
Meanwhile, the Egyptian economy has ground to a halt as tourism fades and businesses across the country close because of the threat of looters. At the Egyptian National Museum, home to some of humanity’s oldest archaeological artifacts, looters damaged a number of objects including several ancient mummies, before hundreds of Egyptian citizens formed a chain around the museum to protect it.
The military has since secured the museum, placing snipers on the roof and detaining 50 men following subsequent attempts to loot and destroy the artifacts.
Egypt’s most iconic site, the Pyramids of Giza, have been closed to visitors.