CAIRO — After a day of increasingly violent protests throughout Egypt, President Hosni Mubarak ordered the military into the streets to reinforce police struggling to contain one of the most serious challenges to his long and autocratic rule.Read the rest here.
The president also imposed an overnight curfew nationwide, but fighting continued on the streets of Cairo, the capital, and smoke from fires blanketed one of the city’s main streets along the Nile. The ruling party’s offices were in flames at nightfall and Reuters reported looting at the burning complex.
News reports had said that Mr. Mubarak was expected to deliver a televised address, but he had not spoken by late evening.
Demonstrations began earlier in the day as thousands poured from mosques after noon prayers, growing increasingly violent as protesters clashed with police who fired tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons. The demonstrations, on what protesters called a “day of wrath,” were on a scale far beyond anything in the memory of most residents and struck several cities besides the capital, including Suez, Alexandria and Port Said.
The unrest in Egypt — fueled by frustrations over government corruption, economic stagnation and a decided lack of political freedom — came after weeks of turmoil across the Arab world that toppled one leader in Tunisia and encouraged protesters to overcome deep-rooted fears of their autocratic leaders and take to the streets. But Egypt is a special case: a heavyweight in Middle East diplomacy, in part because of its peace treaty with Israel, and a key ally of the United States. The country, often the fulcrum on which currents in the region turn, also has one of the largest and most sophisticated security forces in the Middle East.
Calling out the military is a signal of how dramatically the situation had spiraled out of control after four days of demonstrations. The army, one of the country’s most powerful and respected institutions, prefers to remain behind the scenes and has not been sent into the streets since 1986.