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Protesters killed in Egyptian anti-government uprising

Four people died in a day of protests across Egypt inspired by Tunisia's recent uprising. Tens of thousands took to the streets demanding that President Hosni Mubarak step down from office.

A protester in Cairo surrounded by riot police

Protesters were calling for the president to step down

Police fired teargas and water cannons to disperse protesters in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, in the early hours of Wednesday after a long day of unprecendented protests across the country.

Four people died during the protests, which had been energized by Tunisia's recent uprising. Tens of thousands took to the streets on Tuesday to demand that President Hosni Mubarak step aside.

Two people were killed in the eastern Egyptian port city of Suez after riot police opened fire on protesters on Tuesday evening.

Earlier in the day a policeman also died from injuries sustained in clashes on the streets of Cairo. A fourth man died in a Suez hospital from injuries received on Tuesday.

The protests in Egypt, which organizers have vowed to carry on until dawn, are estimated to be the largest since Mubarak took power nearly 30 years ago.

President Hosni Mubarak

President Mubarak has been in power for nearly 30 years

Protesters in Egypt's second largest city, Alexandria, tore down a picture of 82-year-old Mubarak and of his son, Gamal, who many Egyptians believe is being groomed for office when his father steps down.

Demonstrators hung banners from buildings in Cairo reading "Revolution against oppression" and "Down with Hosni Mubarak."

The United States, a close ally of Egypt and a major aid donor, called for restraint from all sides.

"Our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people," US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters in Washington.

Copycat protests

The demonstrations were calculated to emulate the recent Tunisian uprising that led to President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali being ousted from power after nearly 23 years in office.

Sites such as Twitter and Facebook have been key tools for galvanizing support.

Protesters in Cairo

Demonstators were inspired by riots in Tunisia

"We are not less than Tunisia. Tens of thousands went out on the streets demanding their rights until the removal of the president and his escape from the country. We want our rights," organizers said in a statement on Facebook by a group called Revolution Day against Torture, Poverty, Corruption and Unemployment.

Those on the streets of Cairo had the same complaints that drove Tunisians to revolt two weeks ago: rising food prices, poverty, unemployment and authoritarian rule. Many Egyptians were calling for the dissolution of parliament as well as higher wages.

Others were angry about Egypt's emergency laws, which allow the police to make arrests without charge, and ban unauthorized protests.

The Egyptian authorities have rejected any possibility that they might face a similar scenario to Tunisia, but they have moved to reassure the public that subsidies on basic commodities will remain in place.

Around 40 percent of Egypt's 80-million-strong population - equivalent to the population of Germany - live on as little as two dollars per day, and many people rely on subsidized goods.

Dozens were arrested throughout the country on Tuesday. Riot police used sticks, tear gas and water cannons to try to disperse the crowds, injuring hundreds.

Nationwide unrest

The demonstrations began around midday with hundreds gathering in north Sinai, blocking the road leading to the airport used by multinational peacekeeping forces.

Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood, one of Egypt's largest opposition groups, reported that thousands of protesters were gathered in the coastal city of Alexandria.

Protesters surrounding a police vehicle

Protesters clashed with riot police on the streets of Cairo

The Interior Ministry blamed the Brotherhood for provoking the riot and inciting chaos. They said people were allowed to organize "peaceful protests."

In Cairo, thousands marched and carried flags along the city's main streets, until they reached the central Tahrir Square. By nightfall, security forces had failed to disperse the crowds, despite the use of force.

The protest - planned in at least 16 cities nationwide - was organized by over a dozen non-governmental organizations and rights groups, which described it as a "Day of Wrath."

Author: Joanna Impey (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Matt Zuvela

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