Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has sent his defense minister Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi to Washington with an urgent request for US backing for his embattled regime against the street protest movement which gained in violence on its second day, Wednesday, Jan. 26. debkafile's Washington sources report that in secret meetings, the Egyptian defense minister put the situation before President Barack Obama and a row of top US political, military and intelligence officials. He warned them that by advocating a soft hand with the demonstrators and responsiveness to their demands, American officials were doing more harm than good. Without a crackdown, he said, the regime was doomed.
Tantawi also warned that the radical Muslim Brotherhood, which has stood aside from the opposition protests, was merely biding its time for the right moment to step in and take over. He asked the Obama administration for an urgent airlift of advanced riot control equipment.
The American response to the case presented by Tantawi is not known. Disclosure of his trip to Washington might well add fuel to the fires of disaffection burning in cities across Egypt. The protests are spearheaded by a youth opposition coalition whose members are proud of their Arab and Egyptian identity. Evidence of the regime's collaboration with a foreign power may well heighten their resolve to battle the regime and the million security services agents which Mubarak put on the streets Wednesday.
Slogans of "US out" and "Death to the US" have begun to appear on anti-Mubarak placards.
Wednesday night, debkafile reported:
The level of anti-government protest and violence escalated in the streets of Egyptian cities Wednesday night, Jan. 26 even after President Hosni Mubarak ordered a million security officers to back up the police and for the first time open fire on rioters in the town of Suez, leaving scores of dead and wounded. Western sources told debkafile that security forces lost control of the situation in the main Suez Canal port after protesters managed to break through a line of police defending the suburb housing government institutions and set them on fire.
They torched police headquarters and the regional premises of Mubarak's ruling NDP.
The president who has not been seen in public since the outbreaks broke out Tuesday has placed four armored divisions on emergency standby and cancelled all leaves – two on operational preparedness outside Cairo and two near the towns on the banks of the Suez Canal. Officers and men on furlough were ordered back to their bases.
Security forces have made some 2,500 arrests of opposition activists without managing to quell the unrest. debkafile's sources report that the situation in Cairo Wednesday was extremely tense after thousands of demonstrators poured into the streets and made for the Tel Talat Harb Square on the way to Liberation Square city center, where 30,000 protesters gathered Tuesday. A demonstrator and a policeman were killed in clashes, raising the number of fatalities in two days to six, as police failed to stem the advancing tide.
Our sources also report from Western sources in Cairo that some 500 journalists are locked in the building of the press association in the capital, including many foreign correspondents. Security officers burst into the building, collected the journalists in the lower flowers of the building and prevented them from covering events, reporting or taking photos.