UK

Egypt: 161 Britons arrive home on chartered flight

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Media captionRupert Wingfield-Hayes joined some Britons heading for Cairo airport

Some 161 people have arrived back in London from Cairo on a Foreign Office-chartered flight, with a second being arranged for Saturday.

The flight arrived at Gatwick at 2210 GMT, after a delayed departure due to disrupted airport operations as pro- and anti-government protests continue.

Foreign Secretary William Hague described the violent clashes seen over the past two days as "reprehensible".

He said he was "extremely concerned" about the potential for more violence.

Fighting in Cairo's Tahrir Square since Wednesday has seen five people killed and 836 injured - mostly as the result of stone-throwing and attacks with metal rods and sticks, according to Egypt's health minister.

The protesters are demanding that President Hosni Mubarak, who has ruled for 30 years, step down immediately.

The Foreign Office said a second chartered plane was on standby for Saturday because of the "continuing fluidity and unpredictability of the situation".

'Unacceptable and disturbing'

So far, 30 people have requested seats on this additional flight.

A spokesman for the charter operator earlier blamed the delay in departure on Thursday on the "chaotic situation" with long queues at Cairo airport.

Mr Hague said: "The scenes that we have witnessed over the last twenty four hours are reprehensible.

"In addition the abuse of internet and mobile networks and, in particular, today's increased intimidation and harassment of journalists are unacceptable and disturbing."

Journalists, including BBC staff, have been attacked while trying to report.

Mr Hague said the investigation into the violence promised by the Egyptian authorities "must be full and open".

"I am extremely concerned about the potential for further violence. The world will be watching closely how the Egyptian authorities respond.

"Their reputation will be severely damaged if we see violence at the levels we have seen recently."

He reiterated the UK government's view that an orderly transition take place urgently.

'Stay indoors'

The Foreign Office travel advice remains broadly the same as it has for the past week, advising Britons to leave Cairo unless they have a pressing reason to stay. Non-essential travel to Alexandria, Suez and Luxor was not advised.

It has been updated to say that as "further major nationwide demonstrations" will take place on Friday and a general strike has been called for Sunday.

"Previous mass demonstrations have been characterised by violence, including the use of tear gas, water cannon, rubber bullets and live ammunition.

"All demonstrations and/or large crowds should be avoided. We advise all British Nationals unable to leave to stay indoors wherever possible," the advice says.

In a joint statement on Thursday, Prime Minister David Cameron and his French, German, Italian and Spanish counterparts expressed their concern about the latest developments.

"We are watching with utmost concern the deteriorating situation in Egypt," the statement said.

"The Egyptian people must be able to exercise freely their right to peaceful assembly, and enjoy the full protection of the security forces."

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