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Mubarak faces calls to quit

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Grinding poverty provokes “Day of Rage”

Tunisia fever: Demonstrators clash with police in central Cairo on Tuesday. — Photo: AFP
Tunisia fever: Demonstrators clash with police in central Cairo on Tuesday. — Photo: AFP

Thousands of anti-government protesters, some hurling rocks and climbing atop an armoured police truck, clashed with riot police on Tuesday in the centre of Cairo in a Tunisia-inspired demonstration to demand the end of Hosni Mubarak's nearly 30 years in power.

Police responded with blasts from a water cannon and set upon crowds with batons and acrid clouds of tear gas to clear demonstrators crying out “Down with Mubarak” and demanding an end to the country's grinding poverty.

Tuesday's demonstration, the largest Egypt has seen for years, began peacefully, with police showing unusual restraint in what appeared to be a concerted government effort not to provoke a Tunisia-like mass revolt. As the crowds in downtown Cairo's Tahrir square continued to build, however, security personnel changed tactics and the protest turned violent.

Demonstrators attacked the police water canon truck, opening the driver's door and ordering the man out of the vehicle. Some hurled rocks and dragged metal barricades. Officers beat back protesters with batons as they tried to break cordons to join the main group of demonstrators downtown.

To the north, in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, thousands of protesters also marched in what was dubbed a “Day of Rage” against Mr. Mubarak and lack of political freedoms under his rule.

In another parallel with the Tunisia protests, the calls for rallies went out on Facebook and Twitter, with 90,000 saying they would attend.

The protests coincided with a national holiday honouring Egypt's much-feared police.

The rallies came against a backdrop of growing anger in Egypt over widespread poverty and unemployment, as well as questions about whether Mr. Mubarak will run again in presidential elections later this year or perhaps position his son to run.

The first ramifications of the Tunisia uprising surfaced last week in Egypt when several people set themselves on fire or attempted to do so outside Parliament and the Prime Minister's office. — AP

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