BREAKING NEWS: Egypt: Thousands Of Prisoners Flee From Prisons Some Killed In Mass Breakouts: UPDATED

30 Jan

Thousands of prisoners have fled jails in Egypt after protesters defied a curfew on the sixth day of mass unrest in the country.

Inmates Escape As Crowds Defy Egypt Curfew Enlarge photo

Security officials confirmed inmates escaped from at least four prisons, including one northwest of Cairo.

They added several prisoners were killed during the breakout, with another man wounded after clashes with guards.

The news came as Egyptians ignored a curfew designed to quell unrest in the country, with many camping out in Cairo’s main square.

Despite orders to stay in their homes, thousands of protesters have taken to the streets as fast-moving developments continue to destabilise the North African country.

More than 1,000 people have gathered in the city centre, continuing their demand for President Hosni Mubarak to step down.

Referring to the appointment of Omar Suleiman as a vice president, the protesters shouted: “Hosni Mubarak, Omar Suleiman, both of you are agents of the Americans.”

As chaos engulfed many parts of Egypt overnight, residents took on the roles of vigilantes to protect their homes and businesses from looters and criminal gangs.

With an almost non-existent police presence, an air of lawlessness has fallen upon the country with gangs and thieves raiding homes and stores, making off with TVs, bottles of alcohol, and sofas and tables from casinos.

Armed with clubs and sticks, residents set up checkpoints and formed barricades to ward of those approaching their properties.

Adding to the upheaval were reports that thousands of Egyptian prisoners had broken out of a Wadi Natrun facility – a further indication of a reduced police force.

With the police presence diminished, armoured personnel carriers and tanks belonging to the army have surrounded government buildings and archaeological sites in Cairo in an effort to protect vital heritage and infrastructure sites.

However, the military presence has been mostly welcomed by protesters, a stark contrast to the reception police received during the unrest.

Soldiers have made no moves against those demonstrating or breaking the curfew, with many people appearing to welcome them as they arrived on the streets.

NEWS UPDATE:

AP – Egyptian anti-government protesters pray in front of an Egyptian army tankduring a protest in Tahrir …

Anti-government protests in Egypt Slideshow:Anti-government protests in Egypt

By HAMZA HENDAWI, Associated Press Hamza Hendawi, Associated Press :

CAIRO – Thousands of inmates escaped prisons across Egypt on Sunday, including at least one jail that housed Muslim militants northwest of Cairo, adding to the chaos engulfing the country as anti-government protests continue to demand the ouster of longtime authoritarian President Hosni Mubarak.

Security officials said the prisoners escaped overnight from four jails after starting fires and clashing with guards. The inmates were helped by gangs of armed men who attacked the prisons, firing at guards in gun battles that lasted hours.

Looting and arson continued overnight as the police totally disappeared from the streets of the capital and several major Egyptian cities. There has been no explanation for why the police have vanished.

The vacuum left by the police has prompted residents to form neighborhood protection groups, armed with firearms, sticks and clubs to set up self-styled checkpoints and barricades to ward off looting gangs roaming Cairo and other cities. The groups set up barricades, using bricks and metal traffic barriers.

Groups of youths also directed traffic in parts of Cairo, chasing away gangs of criminals smashing passing cars. Residents said gangs were also stopping people on the streets and robbing them.

At least one shopping mall was on fire Sunday morning after it was looted the previous day.

Army helicopters were flying low over the city.

The army appears to be reinforcing its presence on the streets of Cairo, but entire neighborhoods remained without any troops two days after Mubarak called the army out on the streets to restore order.

The security officials said several inmates were killed and wounded during the escapes early Sunday, but gave no specific figures. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to share the information with the media.

State Egyptian television, meanwhile, said authorities have decided to close down the Cairo offices of the Qatar-based Al-Jazzera television and suspend the accreditation of its reporters.

The Egyptian TV did not give a reason for the move, but Egyptian authorities have often in the past charged that station’s coverage of events in Egypt was sensational or biased against Mubarak’s regime.

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