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Egypt shuts down Internet, rounds up opposition leaders as protests start

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Egyptians pushing for regime change and democracy in Egypt have won this round, simply by making good on their promise of the largest protest against the government since three days of bread riots in 1977. The government was apparently hoping that shutting down internet and phone communications would head off the protests, but the blood and sinew of thousands poured out of the mosques anyways.

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Today's protests also include the formal involvement of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest and best organized opposition group, who had sat out the first round of protests earlier this week.

“Two, three days ago I didn’t think the Brotherhood would join the protests because they thought it would be business as usual,” says Josh Stacher, a political scientist at Kent State who studies Egypt. “But I think the Brothers realize it’s on now. They sense they’ve got a legit chance of chasing Mubarak out of the country.”

To be sure, the regime has enormous resources at its disposal.

"I think we have to be a little bit cautious, repression does sometimes work, and we saw that in Iran with the Green Movement... if a regime is determined there's a lot they can do to destroy the opposition," Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Doha Centre told Al Jazeera English shortly after 7 AM EST. "This is beyond historic.. even if a revolution doesn't happen, even if there's no structural change in the regime... the legitimacy of the regime is completely gone. It's not a question of if, but when."

What's happening is still very fluid, reporting scattered and disrupted. But events today are shaping up to be larger and potentially more shattering to the Mubarak regime than Jan. 25 protests, that were themselves unprecedented. Judging by footage carried on Arab satellite television networks, tear gas and baton charges are only serving to enrage the protesters.

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