Armed with sticks and guns, residents in Cairo set up overnight neighbourhood watches to prevent looting following another day of demonstrations in which protesters pressed for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster.
Residents in the Egyptian capital of Cairo set up neighbourhood watches overnight Saturday amid reports of looting and violence as the upheaval in the most populous Arab nation moved into its sixth consecutive day.
Many Cairo residents used sticks and guns to defend their neighbourhoods as best they could after a tumultuous day in which embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak appointed the country's intelligence chief to the post of vice-president.
"Tension is literally reaching a climax here in the heart of Cairo."
“There are reports of looting going on in Cairo,” said FRANCE 24 correspondent Gallagher Fenwick, reporting from the Egyptian capital. “Unidentified young men are entering buildings and private houses in some of the upscale neighbourhoods of the city. They’re looting stores as well.”
While there was a massive military presence in Cairo late Saturday, the city’s police force has not been seen in the past few days.
“For the moment, the army does not appear to be intervening although it has the means to do so,” said Fenwick. “Perhaps the order has been given not to do so for the moment.”
Troops have been deployed at government offices and national monuments, particularly at the landmark Egyptian Museum in the central Tahrir Square, where vandals ripped the heads off two Egyptian mummies and damaged a number of smaller artifacts before military troops moved in and detained several people, according to Egypt’s antiquities chief.
Trusted spy chief becomes vice president
Across the country, people braced for the start of the Egyptian workweek, which begins Sunday, after a deadly weekend which saw at least 73 people killed, according to medical officials.
Demonstrations broke out earlier this week with thousands of Egyptians taking to the streets in Cairo as well as other main Egyptian cities such as Alexandria and Suez, calling for an end to Mubarak’s 30-year reign.
In an attempt to address the latest discontent, Mubarak announced the appointment of his longstanding intelligence chief Omar Suleiman as vice president earlier Saturday.
The position of vice president has been vacant since 1981, when Mubarak gave up the post to succeed assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.
According to FRANCE 24’s International Affairs Editor Armen Georgian, the new appointment is being viewed as a sign that Suleiman could be a successor to Mubarak.
“The vice president represents the president when he’s not present. This has led to some speculation that Hosni Mubarak might be preparing his departure,” said Georgian.
Popular discontent has been mounting amid rumours that the octogenarian Egyptian leader had picked his son, Gamal, to be his successor.
Presidential elections in Egypt are slated for September 2012. Speaking to the press Saturday, parliament speaker Fathi Sorour said there were no plans for early elections.
Shortly after Suleiman’s appointment as vice president, Ahmad Shafiq, a former chief of air staff, was appointed prime minister.
‘Mubarak did not understand the message'
Opposition to the new appointments, which were broadcast state television, came swiftly, according to Fenwick, reporting from Cairo.
The France 24 interview: ElBaradei says Mubarak 'must go'
“For protestors, it’s more of the same,” said Fenwick. “This was to be expected. For Egyptians, these appointments are a continuation of the regime.”
Reacting to the news, Egypt’s top dissident, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohamed ElBaradei lamented the appointments as "not sufficient",
In an interview with FRANCE 24 earlier Saturday, ElBaradei said Mubarak must step down from power. "President Mubarak did not understand the message of the Egyptian people."
Obama, Sarkozy calls on Egyptian authorities to avoid violence
Heads of state of several Western nations have called on Egyptian authorities to refrain from using violence.
US President Barack Obama met with national security advisers for an hour Saturday afternoon to review the fast changing developments in Egypt. A key US ally in the region, Egypt is the largest recipient of US aid after Israel.
Washington has not responded the appointments of the new vice president and prime minister.
In a joint statement released Saturday, French President Nicolas Sarkzoy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron called on Egyptian authorities to avoid violence "at all costs".
In pictures: Cairo seized by unrest
Defying a curfew, demonstrators took to the streets in Cairo and other major Egyptian cities on Saturday in an unprecedented display of rage against the regime. (Photos: Marc Daou)
The morning after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announced he was sacking his cabinet, protesters gathered near the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) headquarters in Cairo. (Photos: Marc Daou)
Demonstrators made it clear that they wanted their long-time leader to quit, holding signs in Arabic that read, “Mubarak go!” (Photos: Marc Daou)
Cars were torched outside the ransacked NDP headquarters in Cairo. (Photos: Marc Daou)
The NDP headquarters smoulders after protesters torched the building late Friday night. (Photos: Marc Daou)
While most of the protesters were male, some Egyptian women also joined the protests, targeting their anger at President Hosni Mubarak’s son, Gamal, who is widely slated to be the president’s successor. (Photos: Marc Daou)
Several journalists have been caught up in the clashes, but ordinary Egyptians are eager to get their story out – in region and across the world. (Photos: Marc Daou)
Military tanks patrol Cairo’s main arteries. But the country’s unpopular police force was noticeably absent from Cairo streets. (Photos: Marc Daou)
The protesters sympathise with the soldiers, and a few of them climb onto the tanks. (Photos: Marc Daou)
In the middle of the crowd, a group of men hoist a body draped with the Egyptian flag, a victim of Friday’s violent clashes. (Photos: Marc Daou)
Date created : 2011-01-30