Egyptian riot police clashed with thousands of anti-government activists for a second day Wednesday, firing rubber bullets and using tear gas and batons on protesters who defied a government ban on demonstrations.
At least four people have died in two days of demonstrations against President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year-old rule. Another two people were killed Wednesday as the protests unfolded, but officials gave contradictory accounts of their deaths.
In the city of Suez, east of Cairo, protesters set a government building on fire late Wednesday. Others attempted to firebomb the ruling National Democratic Party’s local headquarters before police pushed them back with teargas. At least 55 people were hurt in the clashes.
After nightfall, more than 2,000 people continued their protests in various parts of Cairo. Demonstrators in the Egyptian capital set tires on fire and threw rocks at security officials, who drove back the crowds with armored vehicles and water cannons.
The government says at least 700 people have been arrested in the waves of unrest across the country. The anti-government rallies are the largest demonstrations that Egypt has seen in years.
In Washington, White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs said Egypt remains “a close ally,” while stressing the importance of universal rights for the Egyptian people. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged the Egyptian government to allow peaceful protests instead of cracking down.
During an appearance with Jordan’s foreign minister, Nasser Judeh, Clinton also called on Egypt to refrain from blocking social media websites. Egyptians complained that Twitter andFacebook accounts have been down for the last two days, but many accessed them via proxies. Twitter confirmed its site was blocked on Tuesday.
The April 6th Youth movement, which has organized the protests through Facebook along with other groups, said it was planning a large demonstration after Friday prayers. The organizations say they speak for young Egyptians frustrated with the kind of poverty and oppression that triggered Tunisia’s unrest.
Wednesday’s clashes took place in spite of a warning from the Interior Ministry that no new demonstrations would be allowed and protesters would be prosecuted.
The protests, which have rolled through in Cairo and other major cities, saw thousands of people calling for an end to Mr. Mubarak’s regime. Egypt’s government said at least 85 police officers have been wounded in the clashes.
Such a coordinated wave of anti-government action has not been seen in Egypt since Mr. Mubarak assumed power in 1981 after Islamists assassinated President Anwar Sadat.
Since Tunisia’s anti-government protests, at least five Egyptians have attempted suicide by self-immolation, imitating the young Tunisian whose burning death in December first galvanized protesters there.
Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.
Video footage of Egypt protests: