Egyptian reform leader calls on Mubarak to goPosted: Updated:
(AP) - Egypt's most prominent democracy advocate took up a bullhorn Sunday to call for President Hosni Mubarak to go, speakingto thousands of protesters who defied a third night of curfew tomass in the capital's main square. Fighter jets streaked lowoverhead and police returned to the streets as Egypt's governmenttried to show its authority over a situation spiraling out ofcontrol.
Nobel Peace laureate Mohammed ElBaradei addressed the crowds inTahrir Square, where up to 10,000 protesters gathered during theday. Even when he spoke hours after the 4 p.m. curfew, theynumbered in the thousands, including families with young children,addressing Mubarak with their chants of "Leave, leave, leave."
"You are the owners of this revolution. You are the future,"ElBaradei told supporters. "Our essential demand is the departureof the regime and the beginning of a new Egypt in which everyEgyptian lives in virtue, freedom and dignity."
In a further sign of Mubarak's teetering position, his top allythe United States called for an "orderly transition todemocracy."
Asked if Washington supports Mubarak as Egypt's leader,Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton avoided a direct answer,telling Fox News in an interview, "We have been very clear that wewant to see a transition to democracy, and we want to see the kindof steps taken that will bring that about."
Now in their sixth day, the protests have come to be centered inTahrir, or Liberation, Square, where demonstrators have camped outsince Friday despite the curfew, which officials announced would bemoved up to 3 p.m. starting Monday. Protesters have shrugged offMubarak's gestures of reform, including the sacking of his Cabinetand the appointment of a vice president and a new prime minister -both seen as figures from the heart of his regime.
The military was taking the lead in restoring order after policevirtually vanished from the streets on Friday without explanationafter initially clashing with protesters. The disappearance of thepolice opened the door for a wave of looting, armed robberies andarson in cities around the country.
The anarchy was further fueled when gangs of armed men attackedat least four jails across Egypt before dawn Sunday, freeinghundreds of criminals and Muslim militants. Gangs of young men withguns and large sticks smashed cars and robbed people in Cairo.
The official death toll from the crisis stood at 97, withthousands injured, but reports from witnesses across the countryindicated that the actual toll was far higher.
The military, which enjoys far greater support among the publicthan the police, fanned out in tanks and armored vehicles aroundthe city starting Sunday morning. At Tahrir Square, they appearedto cooperate with protesters in keeping the demonstrations orderly,and there were many scenes of affection between soldiers andprotesters, who allowed troops to use their mobile phones to callhome or offered them cigarettes.
"I am glad they are continuing to protest. God willing, he(Mubarak) will go," said one Air Force captain in uniform whodrove by the edge of the square.
One banner held by protesters summed up the dilemma facing themilitary, proclaiming, "The army must chose between Egypt andMubarak."
Minutes before the start of the curfew, at least two jets roaredover the Nile, making several passes over the square, droppinglower every time and setting off alarms in parked cars. Someprotesters clapped and waved to them while others jeered.
Death toll rises, chaos spreads in Egypt