Middle East

Egypt protests: Tension rises as jets buzz Cairo square

Tension is mounting in the Egyptian capital Cairo after the military staged an apparent show of strength during a sixth day of anti-government protests.

Two air force jets and a helicopter repeatedly flew low over Tahrir (Liberation) Square, the main gathering point for demonstrators.

A column of tanks arrived there only to have its path blocked by protesters.

Amid the stand-off, leading opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei arrived in Tahrir Square to address protesters.

"You have taken back your rights and what we have begun cannot go back," he said, quoted by Reuters news agency.

"I bow to the people of Egypt in respect. I ask of you patience, change is coming in the next few days."

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called for an "orderly transition" of power in Egypt.

She told ABC News that Washington wanted to see change that would bring about a democratic government.

"We want to see restraint, we do not want to see violence by any security forces," she added.


The demonstrators are defying a curfew that began at 1600 (1400 GMT).

The BBC's Jeremy Bowen, in Tahrir Square, says there is a mood of defiance among protesters, who are accusing the military of trying to intimidate them.

The arrival of the tanks and the buzzing of the square by the jets significantly raised the tension among the thousands gathered.

Earlier, despite the presence of armoured vehicles, protesters appeared to have free rein in the city centre, with no sign of the riot police with whom they have clashed violently in recent days.

At one point, an army officer was carried aloft on the shoulders of cheering protesters.

The police have largely disappeared from the streets.

Clashes are reported to have left at least 100 people dead since rallies began on Tuesday in cities including Cairo, Suez and Alexandria. Thousands have been injured.

Meanwhile, al-Jazeera's broadcasts via an Egyptian satellite have been halted. The Egyptian government earlier ordered the Arabic TV channel, which has been showing blanket coverage of the protests, to shut down its operations in the country.

Sunday is the start of the working week in the Middle East, but many businesses in the capital are closed. Internet access remains intermittent.

Throughout the city, armed citizens' groups have formed to respond to widespread looting and disorder.

In the northern coastal city of Alexandria, thousands of anti-government protesters marched on a mosque for the funerals of two demonstrators killed in clashes with police the previous day.

The BBC's John Simpson, in Alexandria, reports a heavy military presence and a tense atmosphere in the city.

Across Egypt, thousands of prisoners are reported to have escaped from jails after overpowering their guards.

Travel advice

President Mubarak earlier met top commanders during a visit to a military headquarters. He has appointed a vice-president - intelligence chief Omar Suleiman - as he struggles to regain control. Aviation Minister Ahmed Shafiq has been appointed prime minister.

Sunday saw a number of Egyptian political movements issue a joint statement calling on Mr ElBaradei - a Nobel peace laureate - to form a transitional government.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said his government is watching events in Egypt carefully, and hoping to maintain peaceful relations with its Arab neighbour.

The Rafah crossing between Egypt and the southern Gaza Strip is closed, Palestinian officials say.

The US government, which previously advised US citizens against non-essential travel to Egypt, is now advising Americans in Egypt to consider leaving the country as soon as possible.

The UK also advised its nationals in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez to leave if it is safe for them to do so.

A number of other European countries have also advised against visiting the country.

The unrest in Egypt follows an uprising in Tunisia two weeks ago which toppled President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali after 23 years in power.

The Tunisian upheaval began with anger over rising food prices, high unemployment and anger at official corruption - problems which have also left many people in Egypt feeling frustrated and resentful of their leadership.

Are you in Egypt? Are you taking part in a protest or have you witnessed any of the latest events? Are you a tourist attempting to leave? You can send us your pictures and stories using the form below.

Your contact details

If you are happy to be contacted by a BBC journalist please leave a telephone number that we can contact you on. In some cases a selection of your comments will be published, displaying your name as you provide it and location, unless you state otherwise. Your contact details will never be published. When sending us pictures, video or eyewitness accounts at no time should you endanger yourself or others, take any unnecessary risks or infringe any laws. Please ensure you have read the terms and conditions.

Terms and conditions

The BBC's Privacy Policy