Will Egypt end in chaos
There is no end in sight to the bloody power struggle in Egypt. Although the army with tanks stood between opponents and supporters of Head of State Hosni Mubarak, there were again dead and injured in Cairo on Thursday. The attorney general forbade representatives of the regime to leave the country. The violence is increasingly directed against foreigners in Egypt.
Tens of thousands of people did not let themselves be stopped by militant Mubarak supporters from demonstrating in the central Tahrir Square in Cairo for an immediate regime change. The day before, hundreds of violent Mubarak supporters appeared there for the first time and attacked the demonstrators. The thugs came back on Thursday too. Some of them were brought in buses; eyewitnesses said they were supplied with Molotov cocktails on the spot. Shots could be heard over and over again. According to the Egyptian Ministry of Health, ten people have been killed and 900 injured since Wednesday in the clashes.
Vice President Omar Suleiman, recently appointed by Mubarak, accused "foreign forces" of stirring up the unrest. Media "from friendly countries" also took part. In doing so, Suleiman attacked the extensive Cairo reporting by al-Jazeera and al-Arabija, which are based in Qatar and Dubai.
Even before this, foreigners, including many journalists, were increasingly attacked in Cairo and Alexandria. They were harassed and led away by civilians on Tahrir Square. According to eyewitnesses, a foreigner was allegedly beaten to death. Several media workers cleared their offices in downtown Cairo.
Suleiman also invited the semi-legal Islamist Muslim Brotherhood to hold talks with the government. So far, however, the opposition has refused to enter into any dialogue with the regime while Mubarak is still in power. Suleiman also emphasized that 82-year-old Mubarak will remain president until the new elections in September because a state cannot be "without a head". Mubarak himself ruled out an early resignation. It is true that he is tired of governing. "If I resign today, however, chaos will break out," he told US broadcaster ABC late in the evening.
Prime Minister Ahmad Schafik had previously spoken on Egyptian state television. He had promised to investigate the bloody events and expressed the expectation that something like this would not happen again. The army had significantly increased its presence in Tahrir Square on Thursday. More and more soldiers stood between the fronts with their tanks. The clashes on the square have meanwhile become a symbolic struggle for power in the state. The Mubarak opponents want to demonstrate again this Friday.
Surprisingly, the Egyptian attorney general banned high-ranking representatives of the regime, including business people and former ministers, from leaving the country. Meanwhile, more and more people are leaving the country, trying to get thousands of tickets at Cairo airport. Public order has largely collapsed in Alexandria, Egypt's second largest city. There was fighting and looting. The Foreign Office in Berlin issued a travel warning for Cairo, Alexandria and Suez and also warned against traveling to other parts of the country.
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