Muslim Brotherhood Leaders Arrested As Egypt Braces For Friday Rage
The Egyptian government detained early Friday seven senior members of the country's main opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, which is expected to have a major role in planned demonstrations against President Hosni Mubarak.
"He has served the country for 30 years and it is about time for him to retire," Opposition leader and Nobel laureate Mohammed ElBaradei said. "Tomorrow is going to be, I think, a major demonstration all over Egypt and I will be there with them."
ElBaradei returned to Egypt on Thursday. His arrival could incite protesters who have no figurehead, although many activists resent his absences in recent months.
The New York Times reports: "Mr. ElBaradei, the former head of the who has sought to refashion himself as pro-democracy campaigner in his homeland, is viewed by some supporters as capable of uniting the country’s fractious opposition and offering an alternative to Mr. Mubarak’s authoritarian rule. Critics view him as an opportunist who has spent too little time in the country to take control of a movement which began without his leadership.
But his return adds a new element to the unrest in several big cities that has shaken assumptions that Mr. Mubarak’s security apparatus can keep a tight lid on popular protest."
And CNN reports: "ElBaradei was asked whether he would run for the presidency of Egypt.
'The priority for me,' he said, 'is to shift Egypt into a democracy, is to catch up with the 21st century, to get Egypt to be a modern and ... moderate society and respecting human rights, respecting the basic freedoms of the people.'"
Thursday was relatively quiet compared to the previous two days of large, aggressive protests in Egypt.
But organizers are planning to flood the streets with millions of people after Friday prayers, an event they're calling "Friday Rage." Despite a ban on public gatherings issued on Wednesday, organizers are using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to prepare for the protests.
On Thursday the country's largest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, publicly sanctioned the protests after being criticized for cowardice.
Many demonstrators have rallied around the memory of Khaled Said, a 28-year-old man allegedly tortured to death by Egyptian police last year.
They have targeted the strong-armed rule of Mubarak, looking to ElBaradei for leadership.
So far more than 1000 Egyptians have been arrested and at least six killed. Observers say Egypt is caught up in a "Tunisian domino effect" in the Middle East, which has also included the overthrow of Lebanon's government. Thousands are currently protesting for reform inYemen as well.
However, the BBC reports that Egypt's demonstrations have not reached a level where Mubarak's power is truly in danger:
"So far, despite everything, normal life is continuing in most parts of the country. The vast majority of Egyptians are too busy scratching a living to join the protests. There is widespread anger and disillusionment with the government, but there are probably not more than a few thousand people actively expressing their anger. That will give some reassurance to the government."
Mubarak has so far resisted calls for reform by the U.S. and U.K.
At the same time, Mubarak's son has fled the country along with several of his confidants. With "Friday Rage" on the way, the embattled leader isn't taking any chances.