Mohamed ElBaradei joins Egyptians defying curfew to flood Tahrir square

Egyptian opposition figure and former United Nations nuclear chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, joined thousands of Egyptian protesters in Cairo's central Tahrir Square Sunday.

Lefteris Pitarakis/AP
Egypt's pro-democracy leader Mohamed ElBaradei is greeted by a young supporter before Friday prayers in Cairo, Egypt, Friday. ElBaradei has joined Egyptians defying curfew to flood Tahrir square, Sunday.

Thousands of people flooded Cairo's central Tahrir square for the third day Sunday, continuing to demand that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak step down.

While their numbers were smaller during the day Sunday than last week's massive gatherings, the crowd grew larger in the evening in defiance of the 4 p.m. curfew imposed by the military.

Egyptian opposition figure and former United Nations nuclear chief Mohamed ElBaradei joined the protesters, who said they were determined to stay until they they brought about regime change and were undeterred by Mr. Mubarak's attempts to pacify them.

Meanwhile, foreign nations were evacuating diplomatic staff and advising others to leave.

In Tahrir Square, small groups chanted slogans against Mubarak while others walked along carrying their own signs, saying "Get out, Mubarak" or "No to Mubarak." Someone stuck a sign into the burned-out hulk of a police car that said: "It wasn't us who burned it. The police and the regime burned it."

Some held new signs Sunday denouncing Omar Suleiman, who Mubarak on Saturday appointed as vice president. This is the first time in three decades that Egypt has had a vice president, but Mr. Suleiman – the intelligence chief close to Mubarak – was not welcomed.

Determined to oust Mubarak

Some protesters displayed remarkable determination. Two women wearing robes and headscarves typical of the rural poor said that they had been protesting in the square since Friday.

"We left our children at home and came to fight for their future here," says Magda Abdel Hamid, who has seven children staying at home with her husband in the lower-income neighborhood of Imbaba. Her friend Samaha Elgameel has four children at home. The pair had never participated in a political demonstration before last week.

They listed the daily hardships they faced that they said had pushed them to join the protests: rising food costs, no running water in their neighborhood, and difficulty finding apartments for their adult children.

What made things unbearable, they said, is that the government is led by a president who they said doesn't understand their problems, much less care about them. They were adament that Mubarak must go.

No love for opposition leaders nearby

Ms. Hamid gestured at opposition leaders speaking to a crowd nearby, including Mohammed el-Beltagy of the Muslim Brotherhood movement and former presidential candidate Ayman Nour of the Ghad Party, saying: "We don't want any of the political leaders who are here now. We want a president from the people. Someone who can feel our pain and our knows our troubles."

Down the side streets from Tahrir Square, residents began sweeping up the debris that still littered the streets.

Army tanks stood in front of the Interior Ministry where Saturday police clashed with the Army after police opened fire on the crowd. An Army officer said that many were killed there yesterday, but did not say how many. People picked up spent bullet casings from the ground and cursed the police.

And as night fell, gunfire continued to echo in some of the neighborhoods where men patrolled and barricaded the streets to protect against looters. Egypt's police force melted away after Friday and residents have been forced to take security into their own hands. They stopped cars asking for ID and closed off some streets entirely. In the Dokki neighborhood, an Army officer gave residents his mobile phone number telling them to call him if they saw anything suspicious or if they had any problems.

How fully the Army supports Mubarak in days to come could be pivotal to his ability to stay to power.

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