Chaos in Egypt triggers international responses, evacuations

08:19, January 31, 2011      

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As hundreds of judges have reportedly joined the mass anti-government protests in Cairo Sunday, the large-scale riots in Egypt's major cities, which has continued into its sixth day, started to arouse more international responses.

Thousands of people were still seen shouting slogans and waving national flag as they flooded the Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, which was guarded by armored vehicles, tanks and full-armed soldiers.

Witnesses said the military presence grew stronger than in the previous days, and that fighter jets were seen fly low over the capital.

Attending the 16th summit of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that demonstrations must be done in a nonviolence and peaceful way and leaders should listen attentively to the voice of their people.

Ban said the United Nations is closely monitoring the situation in Egypt, and stressed that the Egyptian authorities should listen to its people's voices, their aspiration for better life, social and economic development.

While maintaining that the government should ensure freedom of speech and association, he said it is equally important that "All this kinds of expression of wishes should be done in a peaceful way."

U.S. State Secretary Hillary Clinton on the same day urged Egypt to take concrete steps for political, social and economic reforms in the wake of the anti-government protests.

Clinton said in an interview with CNN that she hoped the demonstrations in Egypt could lead to a fair and free election. But she has declined to say whether she supports Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak who had been in power for 30 years.

Meanwhile, some countries have taken precaution by starting to evacuate their citizens from the turmoil-hit Middle East nation.

"At the request of the Ministry of Transportation, the Iraqi Airways will carry out free of charge flights to Cairo to evacuate Iraqi citizens who are willing to return to the country," an official with the Ministry told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, additional flights have taken off from the Turkish city of Istanbul to retrieve Turkish citizens stranded in Egypt.

Three Turkish Airlines flights departed for Egypt on Sunday morning, with two of them heading to Alexandria and one to Cairo, said a statement released Sunday by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Two other flights departed from Istanbul on Sunday afternoon, said the statement.

Also, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has ordered his government Sunday to evacuate any Yemeni citizens who want to leave Egypt, official Saba news agency reported.

Saleh also instructed state-owned Yemen Airways Company to send more planes to get Yemeni nationals out of Egypt.

Saba said that "Yemen Airways started on Sunday to transfer Yemeni passengers from Egyptian capital Cairo to homeland in light of the current events in Egypt."

"Egyptian authorities are cooperating with the Yemen's Airways to facilitate extra flights to land in Cairo airport," Saba quoted deputy director of the Yemen Airways Company Moneer Gahosh as saying.

The Yemeni Embassy in Cairo has confirmed that all Yemenis citizens in Egyptian cities were safe and away from the protests, according to Saba.

Meanwhile, Malaysia said it has also had a contingency plan to evacuate its citizens from Egypt, but has yet to take actions.

Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said that once necessary, Malaysians in Egypt would be evacuated, including being moved to safety in countries like Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Libya.

Malaysian Foreign Affairs Ministry also said in a statement on Sunday that Malaysian citizens were safe despite being besieged by street protests.

As the situation in Egypt deteriorates, the Rafah crossing point between the Gaza Strip and Egypt is closed until a further notice, Gaza's Hamas authorities announced Sunday.

Sources from the crossing said that Egyptian policemen and passport control officers were not ready, given the turmoil that spread from Cairo until northern Sinai.

Ghazi Hamad, director of Hamas' borders and crossings administration, said in a statement that the closure of the Gazans' only gate to the world may continue for several days.

Source: Xinhua
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