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Egypt shuts down Al Jazeera operations

Cairo, January 30, 2011

Egypt said on Sunday it had shut down the operations of Arab satellite broadcaster Al Jazeera even as protest demonstrations against  President Hosni Mubarak entered their sixth day.

'The Information Minister ordered ... suspension of operations of Al Jazeera, cancelling of its licences and withdrawing accreditation to all its staff as of today,' a statement on the official Mena news agency said.

Earlier, more than 1,000 protesters, who were being joined by a stream of others, gathered in central Cairo demanding Mubarak step down and dismissing his appointment of a vice president.

'Hosni Mubarak, Omar Suleiman, both of you are agents of the Americans,' shouted protesters, referring to the appointment of intelligence chief Suleiman as a vice president, the first time Mubarak has appointed a deputy in 30 years of office.   

It was the position Mubarak held before he become president. 'Mubarak, Mubarak, the plane awaits,' the demonstrators also chanted.

Meanwhile, a report said thousands of prisoners had escaped from the Wadi Natrun facility, north of Cairo.

In six days of unprecedented protests that have rocked the Arab world, more than 100 people have been killed, investors and tourists have taken fright, Mubarak has offered a first glimpse of a plan to step down and 80 million long-suffering Egyptians are caught between hope for democratic reform and fear of chaos.

The biggest immediate fear was of looting as all public order broke down. Mobs stormed into supermarkets, banks, jewellry shops and government buildings. Thieves at the Egyptian Museum damaged two mummies from the time of the pharaohs.

'They are letting Egypt burn to the ground,' said Inas Shafik, 35.

Fearful of a descent into anarchy, some Egyptians may have  been reassured by signs Mubarak may be readying a handover of power within the military establishment.   

But those on the streets of Cairo, a teeming megalopolis of 15 million that is the biggest city in the Middle East, have scented weakness and remain impatient for Mubarak to go now.

'This is not acceptable. Mubarak must step down. Public unrest will not stop until this is achieved,' Mohammed Essawy, a 26-year-old graduate student, said of the appointments.   

Israel is watching events in Egypt with vigilance Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet in its first official comment on the unrest in its neighbour.   

The protests have worried Israel, which signed a peace treaty with its largest Arab ally more than 30 years ago, and uncertainty over Egypt's future has raised fears for the stability in the region.

'We are following with vigilance the events in Egypt and in our region ... at this time we must show responsiblity and restraint,' Netanyahu said. - Reuters




Tags: Egypt | TV | protest | Al Jazeera | Satellite |

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