Thousands of prisoners escape in Egypt; death toll touches 102


Cairo, Jan 30 (PTI) Thousands of prisoners escaped fromjails across Egypt as anti-regime riots entered the sixth daytoday, with looters rampaging through malls and luxury shopsand a number of armymen doffing uniforms to join theunprecedented protests that have claimed at least 102 lives.

Embattled President Hosni Mubarak, 82, clung to powerdespite mounting pressure to quit as the situation in theworld''s most populous Arab nation deteriorated.

The President last night named intelligence chiefand his close confidante Omar Suleiman as Vice President forthe first time in his 30-year rule.

He also chose aviation minister Ahmed Shafiq as new primeminister, hours after sacking the Cabinet and promisingdemocratic and economic reforms. Shafiq, a former chief of AirStaff, has often been mooted as a potential successor toMubarak.

Numerous jailbreaks were reported overnight fromAlexandria, Aswan and other places. An estimated 5,000 inmatesbroke free from a jail in El Fayoum, south of Cairo, killing asenior police officer, media reports said.

The violent protests against Mubarak autocratic regime,which began on Tuesday, have so far left at least 102 peopledead, including 33 who were killed yesterday, the reportssaid.

In the deadliest day of protests on Friday, 62 peoplewere killed, including 35 in Cairo. Seven people were killedon Tuesday and Wednesday in Cairo and the canal city of Suez.

Several thousand people had also been injured, amidreports that more and more armymen were joining the protestsagainst Mubarak.

Breaking into malls along the Nile, looters last nightpicked up TV sets, furniture, electronic items and clothesdefying curfew and and heavy presence of security personnel inthe capital.

Thousands of protesters defied the curfew for the secondnight and Cairo''s central Tahrir (Liberation) Square remainedfilled with protesters.

Troops and armoured vehicles had been deployed acrossthe city to guard key government buildings, and major touristand archaeological sites.

Despite heavy security presence, at least two lootersmanaged to get into Cairo''s museum of antiquities and damagedsome of the exhibits. Thieves also broke into the ArabInternational Bank and several cafes and eateries.

To protect their property from looters, residents ofthe city set up committees armed with guns, clubs and knives.

Protesters yesterday also tried to storm the InteriorMinistry in central Cairo. (More) PTI NSA KIM VMN

Protesters also besieged a police station yesterday in the Giza neighborhood of Cairo and looted and pulled downEgyptian flags before burning the building to the ground.

Pro-democracy advocate Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobellaureate and former IAEA chief, said Mubarak''s appointments ofVice President and Premier were insufficient.

"I tell President Mubarak and his regime to leave Egyptas soon as possible. It will be better for Egypt and for you,"he told Al-Jazeera television.

ElBaradei was put under house arrest after he joined thewave of protests against Mubarak following his return fromVienna, where he was based.

As Mubarak refused to quit, influential Arab cleric Yusufal-Qaradawi accused him of having turned "blind, deaf anddumb" and asked him to step down,

"President Mubarak ... I advise you to depart fromEgypt ... There is no other solution to this problem but forMubarak to go," Qaradawi said.

The widely respected Sunni Muslim cleric asked Mubarakto quit for the good of the country, as his ouster was theonly solution to Egypt''s crisis.

Meanwhile, the official MENA news agency said that thepan-Arabic satellite channel Al-Jazeera has been banned inEgypt now.

Egypt''s outgoing information minister Anas al-Fikki has"ordered the closure of all activities by Al Jazeera in theArab republic of Egypt, and the annulment of its licences, aswell as withdrawing the press cards to all its employees as of(today)," MENA said.

The unrest in Egypt also affected stock markets acrossthe Middle East, which kept on tumbling.

Cairo stock exchange will remain closed today -- despiteSunday being a full trading day in the Middle East -- becauseof the turmoil in the city.

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