Mass evacuations from Egypt

Last updated 01:20 01/02/2011

Egyptian TV said that over 3,200 people had been detained following widespread demonstrations and looting in major cities across Egypt over the past week. Jon Decker reports.

Egyptian soldiers remove the few remaining barricades in Cairo's Tahrir Square.
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Egyptian soldiers remove the few remaining barricades in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

Egyptian protesters break curfew

Mubarak talks to army chiefs

Egypt TV shows post-curfew arrests

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LATEST: Governments are taking steps to whisk their nationals out of Egypt on chartered or scheduled aircraft as demonstrators pressed their mass campaign to topple President Hosni Mubarak.

More than 100 people have died in six days of unrest aimed at ending Mubarak's 30-year-old rule, with the outcome appearing to depend greatly on whatever steps are to be taken by the military. Protesters called for a general strike on Monday.

Two Chinese airlines, Air China and Hainan Air, said they would each send a chartered flight to Cairo on Monday to bring home Chinese citizens. There were at least 500 Chinese nationals stuck at Cairo's international airport, a Chinese consular official in Cairo told Reuters by telephone.

Japan's Foreign Ministry said chartered aircraft would fly out about 500 citizens stranded at Cairo airport, to Rome. But the exact number was unclear as Kyodo news agency said 335 evacuees had boarded an Egyptair flight to Japan overnight.

The United States and Turkey offered to evacuate their nationals and major airlines, including Lufthansa and Air  India, pledged to send more planes to Cairo and Alexandria.

The Greek foreign ministry said at least two Greek military      aircraft were on standby. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki dispatched a plane to Egypt to pick up Iraqi citizens.

Germany's foreign ministry issued a travel warning late on Sunday - singling out hotspots Cairo, Alexandria and Suez - though it described the situation at Red Sea tourist destinations as calm for the moment.

Other countries advised their citizens to leave Egypt or avoid traveling to major cities, although Russian and German tourists at Red Sea resorts have made no move to cut short their holidays.

Britain recommended its citizens leave the three centres "where it is safe to do so." The US State Department moved to reduce diplomatic staff in Egypt, authorising the voluntary departure of diplomats and nonessential workers.

Some European and Asian companies started evacuating staff.

Witnesses reported scenes of chaos at Cairo Airport, with many people, including Egyptians, scrambling to get on a decreasing number of operational flights.

US-based Delta Air Lines Inc, for instance, said on Friday it was suspending its service into Cairo indefinitely.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Janice Jacobs said US-government sponsored flights would be leaving Cairo on Monday.

"Those will begin tomorrow and then they will be ongoing until we are able to get all Americans who are not able to get out via commercial airlines," she told CNN.

PROTESTERS CAMP OUT

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Egyptian protesters were camped out in central Cairo on Monday and vowed to stay until they had toppled President Hosni Mubarak, whose fate appeared to hang on the military as pressure mounted from the street and abroad.

"The army has to choose between Egypt and Mubarak," read one banner in Cairo's Tahrir Square, where demonstrators shared food with soldiers sent to restore order after violent protests shook Mubarak's 30-year rule to its core.

By dawn, some hardy demonstrators were still camped in the Square, which was covered in early morning mist. They had already begun chants of "Down, Down, Mubarak".

Six days of unrest has killed more than 100 people but the two sides have reached a stalemate. Protesters refuse to go, while the army is not moving them. The longer protesters stay unchallenged, the more untenable Mubarak's position seems.

Protesters in Tahrir Square - epicentre of the earthquake that has sent shudders through the Middle East and among global investors - have dismissed Mubarak's appointment of military men as his vice president and prime minister.

His promises of economic reform to address public anger at rising prices, unemployment and huge gap between rich and poor have failed to halt their broader calls for a political sweep out of Mubarak and his associates.

Protesters have called for a general strike on Monday and what they bill as a "protest of the millions" march on Tuesday, to press their demands for democracy which could spell the end for the military establishment which has run post-colonial Egypt since the 1950s.

The United States, an ally which has poured billions of dollars of aid into Egypt since Mubarak came to power, stopped just short of saying openly that it wanted him out. Officials including President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke about "an orderly transition".

A senior US administration official, who declined to be identified, said the feeling among Obama's national security aides was that Mubarak's time had passed, but it was up to Egyptians to determine what happens next.

Mubarak, a former air force chief, has turned to his military commanders, meeting them on Sunday. They seem to hold his future in their hands. Egypt's defence minister spoke by phone to US Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Sunday.

Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and highest-ranking US military officer, praised the "professionalism" of Egypt's armed forces as its troops refrained from a crackdown on protesters. Egypt receives about $1.3 billion a year in US military aid.

    
INVESTORS NERVOUS

The crisis in Egypt follows a revolt that toppled the leader of Tunisia two weeks ago, and a wave of popular anger sweeping other countries in North Africa and the Middle East.

Financial markets around the globe opened on Monday bracing for the impact of the weekend's events in Egypt. Brent oil hit a 28-month high, just pennies below $100 a barrel.

Share prices fell across Asia. Japan's Nikkei share average finished 1.2 percent lower, following Wall Street, which had closed down 1.8 percent on Friday.

"To the extent that instability continues, investor reaction will most likely push oil and Treasury bond prices higher, and global equities lower," Mohamed El-Erian, co chief investment officer at bond giant PIMCO, told Reuters.

"The greater fear is that the turmoil could spread to other Middle East countries, including even Saudi Arabia. If that happens, then all bets for oil prices are off," ANZ Bank economist Sharon Zollner said in a note to clients.

Egypt's own financial markets will be closed for a second working day in a row on Monday and the turmoil could quickly run down its substantial reserves if it continues.

An Egyptian opposition coalition that includes the mass Islamist movement the Muslim Brotherhood has turned to Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the UN nuclear watchdog, to form a national unity government and make contact with the military.

ElBaradei has urged Obama to call time on Mubarak.

"It is better for President Obama not to appear that he is the last one to say to President Mubarak, 'It's time for you to go," he told CNN.

ElBaradei disappointed the opposition by spending much of his time abroad since he first launched a campaign calling for political reform in Egypt last year, but lends the weight of his international reputation to a movement that lacks a leader.
   
'NO MORE PHARAOHS'

 "I think he is a good guy. He wasn't prepared for what happened. All we care about is that we don't get another pharaoh," said Rami Nabil, 39, a businessman camped in Tahrir.

 "We need a system of government that is democratic and long term, not more pharaohs."

A short distance from the protests, shooting echoed over Cairo. Impromptu neighbourhood watch groups set up checkpoints across the city centre, checking anyone passing by.

Some of the self-appointed guards said shooting in one area near Cairo's supreme court was the result of looters in a chemical company building.

Security, which disintegrated on Saturday and Sunday when police withdrew from the streets, has been slowly restored. Extra troops sent into cities helped calm panicked residents and the official news agency said police patrols had resumed.

While the army has sought to stop lawlessness, there is no sign it is willing to drive the protesters off the street.

"In the next few days security and stability will return," said Brigadier Atef Said in Suez, east of Cairo and the scene of some of the worst of the violence between police and protesters.


"We will allow protests in the coming days. Everyone has the right to voice their opinion. We're listening and trying to help and satisfy all parties. We're not here to stop anyone. These are our people," he said.

LOOTERS DAMAGE ARTEFACTS

Looters have pillaged a number of warehouses containing ancient Egyptian artefacts, stealing and damaging some of them, archaeologists and warehouse workers said on Monday.

A group of looters attacked a warehouse at the Qantara Museum near the city of Ismailia on the Suez Canal that contained 3,000 objects from the Roman and Byzantine periods, a source at the tourism police said.

Many of the objects had been found in Sinai by the Israelis after they occupied the peninsula during the 1967 war with Egypt, and had only been recently returned to Egypt.

A worker at the warehouse said the looters had said they were searching for gold. The worker told them there was no gold but they continued to pillage the storehouse, smashing some items and taking others.

An archaeologist said warehouses near the pyramids of Saqqara and Abu Sir were also looted.

"At other locations, guards and villagers were able to successfully repel gangs of looters,'' the archaeologist said.

On Friday, looters broke into the Cairo museum, home to the world's greatest collection of Pharaonic treasures, smashing several statues and damaging two mummies, while police battled anti-government protesters on the streets.

The culture, monuments, temples and pyramids of ancient Egypt have left a lasting legacy on the world and are a major draw for the country's tourism industry.

- Reuters

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