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CONNECT THE WORLD
Violence in Egypt; Cyclone Yasi Hits Australia
Aired February 2, 2011 - 16:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Dramatic scenes on a day when more than 600 are injured in clashes in Cairo's Tahrir Square.
Egypt's uprising taking an increasingly violent turn. Consider this...
ANDERSON: And this -- something few of us have seen to date -- "Mubarak is Egypt and Egypt is Mubarak," says this banner. I'm going to speak to a man who was at one of these rallies.
And the opposing view from Tahrir Square's protesters, still adamant that the president must go now.
All that and more ahead, as we go live to Cairo.
Plus this hour, Cyclone Yasi hits Australia. It's said to be the most life-threatening storm in generations.
First up for you this evening, the situation in Tahrir Square seems to be taking another turn for the worse after an incredibly violent day. Gunshots rang out a short time ago and Molotov cocktails were tossed from buildings and crowds of anti-and pro-government demonstrators faced off below.
This is a picture coming to you live from Tahrir Square in Cairo. We're going to get a live report from there in just a moment.
Ahead of that, I want to show you how Tahrir Square turned into a war zone earlier today.
ANDERSON: Street brawls broke out on Wednesday between supporters and opponents of President Hosni Mubarak. Many threw rocks, sticks, bars, chunks of pavement -- basically anything they could get their hands on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Look at this guy charging in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh my god.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Well, the melee began when pro-Mubarak men raided Tahrir Square on camels and horses using whips to attack anti-government demonstrators. Police were nowhere to be seen and the army, for the most part, simply watched from the sidelines after urging demonstrators earlier in the day to go home, saying their demands had been heard.
Well, Egypt's health minister says one person has been killed and at least 611 injured so far today.
While the violence in Tahrir Square dominated the headlines, there were other protests in Cairo and across Egypt, many of them pro-Mubarak. This one was near the Cornishe (ph) in Cairo.
Well, many anti-government protesters did stay home today, after President Mubarak told the country that he won't seek reelection. But the ones still in Tahrir Square want him to leave office now. They're not trusting him to leave office now. They're not trusting him to leave any transition. And Tahrir or Liberation Square is at the center of Cairo, the symbolic heart of the Egyptian capital.
There are shades of gray in all of this. The lines aren't just drawn between anti-and pro-Mubarak supporters. Some Egyptians don't necessarily like their president, but they don't want to risk instability by immediately forcing him out.
Well, we're joined now by two guests, Khaled Ahmed, who calls himself a pro-Egypt demonstrator, who's been in the streets today, and Gigi Ibrahim, who's been protesting against President Mubarak from the start, a regular guest on this show now, over the past week or so.
Gigi, you're in Tahrir Square as we speak.
Your reaction to what you've seen and heard today and what's going on now.
GIGI IBRAHIM, HAS PROTESTED AT TAHRIR SQUARE DAILY: Right now, I mean the square is surrounded by pro-Mubarak thugs, actually. Most of these protesters or supporters -- so-called supporters are -- are not even real human beings. They're -- they're coming in with weapons. They're -- they're spreading violence and we've had peaceful protests -- demonstrations in here since Friday, no violence whatsoever since the absence of police, really. And only today, we were faced with this really violent reaction from the Mubarak supporters, trying to swarm in and infiltrate our protest. And when we actually confiscated some of these thugs and checked their IDs, they're mostly police people or hired -- or paid by NDP and -- and Mubarak supporters. And...
ANDERSON: All right...
IBRAHIM: -- it's truly getting violent.
ANDERSON: Khaled, your thoughts?
KHALED AHMED, EGYPTIAN BUSINESSMAN: Hello?
ANDERSON: Your thoughts on what you just heard.
AHMED: Yes, my thoughts -- I'm sorry. I -- I mean I -- I really must correct something here. The things that we've been seeing in Tahrir Square, there are thugs on both sides. Everybody watching these pictures can understand that both sides are throwing rocks, both sides are pelting each other, both sides are fighting each other. It's not about hired thugs. We've heard this story before. These excuses no longer run.
What you're seeing is the demonstration of the real Egyptian people, who are trying to take back their country, trying to take back their street. And I might remind our friend that Tahrir Square does not belong to a certain set of demonstrators. It belongs to Egypt.
ANDERSON: All right. OK.
AHMED: These people have been -- nine days we've been sitting and watching the country lose $300 to $400 million a day. Seven hundred billion Egyptian pounds have been wiped off our stock market because a handful of people sitting in Tahrir Square are determined to spiral the economy into the ground.
ANDERSON: You were in support of this anti-Mubarak protest originally, I believe, Khaled.
ANDERSON: It -- we're looking at live pictures of the square as we speak.
So -- so what's changed, effectively, for you?
AHMED: What needs to be put in perspective here, Becky, is the true story. On the 25th of January, all Egyptians were backing and fully supportive of the -- of, shall we say, the civilized, educated, awareness that we saw in our youth, who protested with all the rights that they have in this country, this so-called un-democratic country that allowed a demonstration, a peaceful demonstration to go ahead. And that's exactly what happened. These people have since gone home...
AHMED: -- the people that are left in Tahrir Square now are in no way representative of the Egyptian community or of the original demonstration.
ANDERSON: All right, well, let's ask Gigi if she can...
AHMED: There are people sleeping there who belong to Hamas.
ANDERSON: All right. Well, let...
AHMED: There's people sitting there who are (INAUDIBLE)...
ANDERSON: Let me bring Gigi in. She must respond to this. You are still in Tahrir Square.
Your response to what Khaled is saying?
IBRAHIM: Honestly, I don't know where to begin. But I've been here day in and day out since Tuesday.
First of all, Tuesday's protest was broken up really violently by police. I got shot with a rubber bullet in my back. I don't know what peaceful he's talking about. It was faced by harsh brutality from police all since Tuesday. And on Friday, many hundreds of people died in Egyptian streets by Mubarak police.
So, really, there were not just a handful of people. Yesterday, six million people were all over Egypt demanding for Mubarak to get out. There -- and -- and no -- nowhere in sight was any of these pro -- so-called pro- Mubarak supporters. Had -- they have never appeared on the Egyptian streets mobilizing for anything. At least I've been an activist for years now and I've never seen anything like this.
ANDERSON: All right...
IBRAHIM: And the only thing I can say is that today, there were massive pro -- SMS texts that were sent out to all Egyptians, urging them to go and protest for Mubarak. I mean this is absolutely ridiculous.
ANDERSON: All right.
AHMED: I'm sorry...
ANDERSON: There's an obvious story.
AHMED: -- I'm sorry -- I'm sorry, Becky...
ANDERSON: Hang on, Khaled. Let me...
ANDERSON: Let me come in here, because there's an obvious question as we -- as we move through the show and our viewers see live pictures at the bottom of their screens and pictures that were recorded slightly earlier in the day in Cairo.
A question to both of you, what happens tomorrow?
AHMED: What happens tomorrow?
Hopefully, the people in Tahrir Square will come to their senses and realize that their peaceful uprising has been hijacked by political and anti-Egyptian elements that have ridden their initial protest and that they have destroyed the country.
And how on earth is this country going to meet their requests and demands if they've managed to destroy it?
It's about nonsense and absolute -- I -- I don't want to use harsher words -- disinformation and rubbish I just heard about six million people on the street.
Where do you get that number from?
The Egyptian people have spent nine days protecting their homes and protecting their livelihood because of this spiraling down of the economy and the wip -- and the wiping out of our national income because of this continued -- what you're seeing is not pro-Mubarak or anti-Mubarak, it's frustration. The people have seen their country running down by these (INAUDIBLE) absolutely distorted protests. And we're -- and that's what they want. They want them out of Tahrir Square. They want...
ANDERSON: All right...
AHMED: -- the country back to its normal life. And they want these people to understand that they have been tricked.
ANDERSON: All right...
AHMED: This is disinformation and a naive response from people who have been hijacked.
ANDERSON: One of the protesters out there today calls himself a -- a pro-Egyptian protester, Khaled for you there.
Gigi, your response?
What happens tomorrow?
IBRAHIM: Now the -- what we're seeing on the streets today is -- is a result of 30 years of repression, of the absence of democracy. If people had free and fair elections to choose their president or the people that represent them, we wouldn't have this violent clash on the street.
Really, I hold Mubarak responsible for all the -- the violence and the people dead and this instability that my friend here, so-called, you know, instability now in Egypt, really, this is all a result of Mubarak's 30 year rule, which where no one is -- is -- there is no reason for someone, one person to hold and control 80 million people for 30 years. This enough. Simple. We need to get Mubarak out now. Enough.
ANDERSON: Are you going to be in Tahrir Square tomorrow?
IBRAHIM: Absolutely. I'm already in here.
ANDERSON: All right. And with that...
ANDERSON: -- we're going to leave it there because...
AHMED: Who's solve their problems when Mubarak goes?
IBRAHIM: And many people are coming...
ANDERSON: OK, don't (INAUDIBLE) with each other...
IBRAHIM: Many people are coming and the protests will continue...
ANDERSON: All right...
IBRAHIM: -- and 15,000 people are coming from Sharia (ph) right now to Dashir (ph) and we have marches coming from Embeppa (ph) and Chobra (ph). And just like yesterday, we had millions of people on the streets demonstrating to get Mubarak out, we will continue this until the last point...
ANDERSON: And with that, we're going to leave it there, guys...
ANDERSON: -- because you're beginning to shout at each other. But you've made your points and we absolutely appreciate your thoughts and opinions this evening.
You're watching live pictures on the bottom of your screens and pictures recorded in Cairo slightly earlier.
Back to those live pictures as they come into CNN. and you've been listening to Gigi Ibrahim, who is in Tahrir Square as we speak, and to Khaled Salim, who is a protester who calls himself a -- a pro-Egyptian protester who's been out on the streets, as well, today.
Well, a spokesman for Egypt's foreign ministry says Wednesday's violence reflects very raw emotions. He's urging his people to calm down, while urging people elsewhere to stay out of Egypt's affairs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOSSAM ZAKI, EGYPTIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY SPOKESPERSON: We understand that people have an interest in Egypt and they watch what unfolds in Egypt because this is important for the region and for the rest of the world. But there is a difference between that and between trying to dictate on Egyptians what course they should follow. Our interactions within our country are Egyptian affairs and nothing more than that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: All right. The voice there recorded earlier.
Well, we're -- we're covering this story from all angles.
Ben Wedeman is standing by in Cairo, our reporter there.
And then right after that, the view from Brussels today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CATHERINE ASHTON, E.U. POLICY CHIEF: The people are saying, look, we want the transition, but we want to really believe that it's going to happen quickly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: But how quickly?
Signs from the E.U. that a September exit for Mubarak isn't good enough.
Later, the role of The Muslim Brotherhood. State television accuses them of throwing these Molotov cocktails. We're going to give them a chance to state their case.
And the ripple effects to Yemen, to Jordan and beyond.
Well, our reporters in Cairo today watching as the violence erupted, just as stunned, it's got to be said, as everybody else. At one point, Ben Wedeman Tweeted -- and I quote -- "government-sanctioned mass lynch underway in Tahrir Square."
Ben joining us now from Cairo -- Ben.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, that demonstration was in -- I mean, basically, we saw earlier this morning a large group of pro-Mubarak demonstrators coming down this road. First, they sort of joined together, massed here, put on quite a show for the cameras and then made their way to Tahrir Square. And it was obvious that there was going to be a clash.
You know, interestingly enough, when the two groups first met, the people in the front lines of each actually started to talk and debate and argue and discuss. But it was peaceful, oddly enough.
And, in fact, I was speaking to two men, a farmer on the left, a Muslim, and a Christian on the right. The Muslim had a picture of Hosni Mubarak and the other one was holding a piece of paper simply saying, "Out."
And they were discussing quite civilly among themselves their differences of opinion.
But within minutes, rocks started to fly and it just turned into utter pandemonium as the two sides went at one another with whatever they could pick up, rip up from the pavement, rip out of -- off of trees, branches and whatnot. And it just deteriorated steadily from there.
We ended up at a mosque that's become a makeshift field hospital where every minute there were more people coming in with massive head wounds from rock. The doctors were struggling to treat the wounded, but just -- the numbers were really overwhelming.
Now, I'm watching something quite interesting here. We're on one of the roads that leads to the Corniche. And I'm watching -- there's a police cho -- rather, an army checkpoint here of tanks. And basically, young men are passing right through that checkpoint, heading toward Tahrir Square. So it appears the army is playing an utterly passive role in this entire day, allowing the demonstrators -- the ones in favor of Mubarak -- to come and go as they please. Some of them are going out to get refreshments, others going back to rejoin the fight.
So a very bizarre role being played by the army here -- Becky.
ANDERSON: But it's got to be said, one that was promised by the army in the last 48 hours. They said that they wouldn't attack protesters. They said that as long as this was orderly, that they would hold back. Well, it's been anything but orderly today -- Ben, you -- you heard Khaled and -- and Gigi -- I -- I'd like to say discussing, but possibly arguing is a better word -- over what went on in Tahrir Square today and exactly who these protesters are.
Gigi says she's been there as an anti-government or anti-Mubarak protester now for some days. Khaled disputing who these pro-Mubarak protesters are.
Have you worked it out, at this point?
WEDEMAN: I'm sorry, the connection is not good. I didn't get the question.
ANDERSON: Have you worked out who was in the square today?
Who are those that are calling themselves pro-Mubarak protesters?
I know that this delay is terrible on this line.
WEDEMAN: Well, it's not altogether clear. I think we have to understand that there are many Egyptians who are concerned with the situation. You know, normal life evaporated on the 25th of January, as these protests picked up. And, you know, schools and universities, most businesses, remain closed. Factories aren't functioning.
The Internet, fortunately, is back today. Cell phones are functioning. But by and large, the country is in a state of paralysis. People are worried about that. So there's that element in it.
But there are many indications that the pro-Mubarak demonstrators, in many cases, were plainclothes policemen. In many cases, people were paid by whoever, whether it's the government or the police, to participate in these demonstrations.
It's a very -- and it certainly seems, given, you know, what about the role of the army. The army said that they would not harm the protesters as long as they obeyed the law. Well, that's exactly what they did not do today. Yesterday, we saw a largely peaceful protest in Tahrir Square. There was no violence that I saw. But today, basically, the -- the army stood back and let these people go at one another.
The image that it projects to the world is catastrophic for Egypt. This is a country that depends upon tourism, where until the other -- until the 25th of January, there was massive foreign investment in this country. It's all evaporated.
So you can understand why people are concerned on all sides.
ANDERSON: Yes. All right. It's not obvious, there are many, many gray areas in all of this.
Ben Wedeman reporting to you from Cairo.
And our apologies, of course, for the significant delay on the line. Better to deal with that than not get the story out to you.
Ben, thank you for that.
Just ahead on CONNECT THE WORLD, global reaction to these extraordinary pictures that we've seen out of Egypt today. The E.U.'s foreign policy chief tells me September is too late for Mubarak to step down.
Plus, looking at these scenes -- how Ten Downing Street and the U.N. are reacting.
Don't go away.
We're back in 60 seconds.
ANDERSON: The flames from the doorways of several buildings in Cairo's Tahrir Square. Smoke rising from the streets as protesters threw Molotov cocktails. Today's violence marking a dangerous new phase in Egypt's upheaval. We're just getting word that Fred Pleitgen is seeing something pretty dramatic on the streets as we speak -- Fred, are you on the line?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I am, Becky.
And you can probably see a lot of Molotov cocktails being thrown in the square below me. It appears as though the Mubarak -- pro-Mubarak protesters, I should say, the side -- on -- on the side of President Hosni Mubarak, seem to be all but retreating here from the area around Tahrir Square.
The guys that you see there on Tahrir Square right now, most of them appear to be anti-Mubarak protesters. They've charged -- they've started to charge just a couple of minutes ago. And we saw a huge wave of people sort of running away. And it really seems as though the pro-Mubarak protesters' numbers are dwindling. And they seem to be the ones on this highway overpass here. We're also seeing a lot of cars that were here also driving away. So it really looks like, if you will, that the -- the anti- Mubarak protesters have, at least at this stage of the game, consolidated the Tahrir Square.
You can see them put up those metal shields. They've been doing that. Now, they've been coming along the street that comes from Tahrir Square, moving closer and closer to this highway overpass. But it seems like the whole square is now under their control and was -- thousands of pro-Mubarak protesters, earlier in the day now have retreated to that highway overpass and they're still throwing some rocks. There's still some Molotov cocktails being thrown. But it really looks like the anti-Mubarak protesters have gained the upper hand here -- Becky.
ANDERSON: All right, Fred Pleitgen reporting as we look at these pictures. We're trying to get you a sense of exactly what Fred was reporting there. So there's a -- a flyover, as it were, there that red -- Fred was talking about, and, indeed, pictures of the square.
Two sets of shots coming to you live from Cairo this hour.
More from our reporters on the ground as and when they can get to us some information.
Well, the European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, is following U.S. President Barack Obama's lead, calling for an orderly transition, as quickly as possible in Egypt.
I spoke to her a little earlier to get Europe's take on the unfolding situation.
This is what she said.
ASHTON: Well, that's for the people of Egypt to decide. I'm very clear that when this kind of situation -- and you know we don't see this, as you rightly say, often and we worry about what's happening on the streets. It's really important that the -- those who have it in their power to do things do them. And he needs to actually sit down and look at what is the best option for his country and for his people.
ANDERSON: Is the E.U. prepared to put financial pressure on Egypt and Mubarak at this point, to persuade him to reconsider his decision?
ASHTON: I think events moved so quickly that at the moment, there's a lot political pressure being put on him. We only look at issues of financial pressure. What we believe those can have a dramatic impact. And, you know, those take time to organize.
At the moment, what's really important is that 27 E.U. leaders are saying very clearly, look, you've really got to respond to this.
ASHTON: This is a really difficult situation and appears to be getting worse.
ANDERSON: What would need to happen and what would you need to see for those really drastic actions to be taken, Cathy?
ASHTON: At this point, it's about really trying to support Egypt into the future, recognizing that action is being called for, people have been on the streets in huge numbers, peacefully at first, but now things look as if they're getting more and more difficult. And we do have to see real response from the government now.
ANDERSON: Where -- when the E.U. rings Egypt in the future, who do you hope picks up the phone?
ASHTON: I hope that whoever the people of Egypt decided should be at the end of the phone is the person I'll be speaking to.
ANDERSON: Who's the natural leader, though, at this point, because that's the problem, isn't it?
You're -- you're -- you're asking for Mubarak to respond to the will of the people, but the people can't run Egypt.
ASHTON: No, but the people can decide who should. And the issue has to be at what point there is this move to allow the people to make the decisions about who should be in charge and a government to be -- to be formed around that. And I think what we're -- we're seeing, really, is those negotiations now about when, about when this transition will happen, when the transformation will occur, what people are asking for on the streets.
You know, if you're in power, you have to look at what people are actually asking you to do and respond to that, because this is a huge number of people representing even more who are saying, we want to see change, we want to see these things happen as quickly as possible.
ASHTON: And that's what he needs to respond to.
ANDERSON: With respect, let's be fair. I mean he has, in that speech yesterday evening, suggested that he is there to create an environment for what is an orderly transition. But the problem is, of course, that is some eight or nine months down the road.
Is September too late, as far as you're concerned?
ASHTON: Well, it's beginning to look as if the people are saying, look, we want the transition, but we want to really believe that it's going to happen quickly. Now, there are different elements of that.
First of all, the setting up of a properly, orderly process, that needs to happen. And I think people need to see indications that that's underway.
Secondly, he needs to look carefully at the time lines involved in that. He needs to be able to demonstrate that he's accepted that there needs to be this transition, that he has in place a process to do it, that he's got in place the way in which the people can show their will, the electoral process. And he needs to demonstrate that there's going to be open and fair, transparent and so on.
All those kinds of issues are areas where the E.U. has a lot of experience. And, of course, as we do with other countries, we would put that at the disposal of the people of Egypt.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
ANDERSON: The E.U.'s foreign policy chief speaking to me a little earlier today, saying September is, frankly, too late.
Well, stay tuned for more Cathy Ashton on the possible ripple effects, comments in the region, of course. Her comments on Tunisia and Yemen coming up on CONNECT THE WORLD. well, with the violence spiraling in Egypt, the U.K. prime minister and the U.N. secretary-general have spoken out.
They were together in London today. Ban Ki-moon currently on a visit here.
Here's what they had to say earlier on today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID CAMERON, BRITAIN PRIME MINISTER: If it turns out that the regime in any way has been sponsoring or tolerating this violence, that would be completely and utterly unacceptable. These are despicable scenes that we're seeing and they should not be repeated. They underline the need for political reform and, frankly, for that political reform to be accelerated and to happen quickly.
BAN KI-MOON, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: I'm deeply concerned at the continuing violence in Egypt. I once again urge restraint to all the sides. And this is very much off -- an acceptable situation that is happening. Any attacks against the peaceful demonstrators is unacceptable and I strongly condemn it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: All right, Ban Ki-moon and the British prime minister, David Cameron, speaking on Egypt today.
I'm going to stay with Egypt through the hour.
One other story, though, to bring you up to date on this hour. In North Queensland, many residents are waking up to scenes of devastation as the worst cyclone in recent history has hit part of the state.
Now, with wind speeds as high as 300 kilometers an hour, Cyclone Yasi has left tens of thousands without power.
Channel Nine network reporter Melissa Mallet is in the town of Talley (ph) and she's going to give us the very latest.
We're looking at pictures coming into CNN Center there of the cyclone -- and, Melissa, what can you tell us at this point?
MELISSA MALLET, REPORTER, NINE NETWORK: I'll tell you what, guys, this is well and truly ground zero. And, you know, we -- we didn't know what to expect driving in, but I don't think anything could have prepared us for this one. It really is just -- just devastating (AUDIO GAP) everything. You know, we -- we knew it would be bad. But these -- these (INAUDIBLE) just like large (INAUDIBLE) that are in the path of that (INAUDIBLE) tonight. And there are power lines, you know, hanging across the -- the road. And it just -- and, you know, it just sort of -- you -- you've got to wonder whether these people thought it was the end of the world happening to them last night.
It really is devastating.
ANDERSON: Yes, we're looking at pictures as you speak. There's a lot of interference on the -- on the line here, Melissa, totally understandable given what we are seeing in the area that you're in at the moment.
Did you get any sense of what was to come?
Were there any -- I mean what was -- what were the sort of preparations that people have been able to take?
MALLET: Yes, it looks -- you know, last night (INAUDIBLE) the people (INAUDIBLE) they didn't think that they were in the direct path of this cyclone and that really they've probably only had about half an hour's notice that it was coming straight for them.
So you can imagine what went through the (INAUDIBLE) when -- when they heard that -- that news.
But, you know, all they could do was bunker down in their homes. But, you know, speaking to people who, you know, the -- this morning they're saying that it was the most terrifying night of their lives and they -- they honestly did not think they'd be here today. They really -- you know, they -- they sent pics, you know, phone calls to their loved ones and -- and said, you know, if I don't see you again, I love you. You know, it -- it's stories like that that you just, you know, they -- they (INAUDIBLE) heart strings.
They have been through, you know, 12 hours of absolute hell here. And, you know, as one person described to me, it was really hell on earth.
ANDERSON: Yes. That's remarkable stuff.
Tell me, what time is it with you now?
MALLET: It's around 8:00 Queensland time, so 8:00 in the morning. We've finally had daylight, and then -- and that's another thing. This all happened in darkness. And that was the most frightening thing, that they couldn't see what was happening.
But they waited, and I think a lot of them wish they couldn't see the town right now, because it's heartbreaking. But they're slowly trying to get phone calls out to people, to their families, obviously their families are very worried. The communications here have been down, as well. Thankfully, we have a line of communication, but that may not last long.
The other real danger, now, is that half of the town is going through a tidal surge, so there's a river, and everything is actually starting to flood the town --
ANDERSON: All right. OK.
MALLET: So, it's a double-whammy, and they've -- they don't need it.
ANDERSON: Well listen, keep in touch, Melissa. Thank you for the report. And we'll stick with this story, updates on CNN as and when we get them, of course.
We're going to take a very short break. Back to the story out of Cairo after this.
ANDERSON: Welcome back, you're with CONNECT THE WORLD. I'm Becky Anderson in London. Let's get you a check of the headlines this hour.
Ongoing unrest in Cairo's Tahrir Square. Protesters were lobbing Molotov cocktails, sparking fires, as anti- and pro-government supporters face off into the night. Military and emergency vehicles are on the scene.
Egyptian officials say one person was killed and more than 600 were injured in clashes earlier on Wednesday. Violence broke out in the square when supporters of President Hosni Mubarak attacked anti-government demonstrators who care calling for his immediate resignation.
Just weeks after floods devastated Australia's Queensland state, a Category 5 cyclone sweeping through its northeast coast, forcing thousands out of their homes.
And a winter storm is hammering much of the US with heavy snow and ice. Nearly 60 centimeters of snow, more than a half a meter, fell in some places. Thousands of flights have been canceled. Those are the most recent pictures for you, and those are your headlines this hour.
All right. Our top story, of course, this hour, Cairo, Egypt, where it's approaching midnight, and demonstrators still facing off in Tahrir Square. Our communications to our correspondents on the ground aren't great, but let me get back to Ben Wedeman. There is a delay on the line, but bear with us.
Ben, you've lived in Egypt for many, many years. Talk to me about how it feels as somebody who's been around for a long time, seeing what you're seeing on the streets of Cairo today.
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's mind- boggling, Becky. It's been mind-boggling since this began on the 25th of January. This was a place where, previously, things were relatively predictable.
In fact, this bureau, the CNN bureau in Cairo, has always been a travel bureau. We based here, but moved around Africa, the Middle East, and beyond Afghanistan. And we would come back here after some long and exhausting trips and be relatively assured that, for a week or two, nothing would happen. That we could rest.
Now, to see this city, really the center of a huge story, a huge story that, by Middle Eastern standards, comparable to the overthrow of the Shah of Iran in 1979.
This is a city where, until recently, protests were small and very tightly controlled. You would find 150 protesters surrounded by as many as a thousand riot police. They were restricted to very small areas, never allowed out. Now we find this city simply overrun, the heart of the city, by huge demonstrations. Tens of thousands of people clashing in the streets.
And I think my sort of shock at all of this is shared by almost all the residents of Cairo who, for years, were accustomed to a very controlled political atmosphere. Now, the political atmosphere is thrown wide open.
And I think, Becky, this is the real significance of the events since the 25th of January, is that this country, which was very sort of under wraps, very controlled, is suddenly, in a sense -- and we saw that today -- out of control.
That politically, it's such -- it's the center of the Middle East, the Arab world, once more, a position that it occupied for many years, but under the Mubarak regime, which tightly controlled freedom of expression, freedom of the press, we've seen that, in the last four or five years, that has changed, that the press has become much more free.
But Egypt is now once more, as Nasser, the president of Egypt said, it's the beating heart of the Arab world once again. Becky?
ANDERSON: All right, Ben, stay with me, don't go away. I've got somebody on the line who I know you'll be interested to hear. Some Egyptians believe the government is behind Wednesday's violence. They're accusing it of hiring thugs to attack anti-Mubarak supporters.
Our next guest says, and I quote, "the free world can now see peaceful protesters being tortured by the Mubarak regime." Mohamed Morsy is a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, the biggest opposition group in Egypt. Mohamed, your thought just on what you've seen today.
MOHAMED MORSY, SPOKESMAN, MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD (via telephone): Yes, we all can see what's happening now. And the scene is obvious. The people in power, now, they are trying to say "We haven't failed yet, we can control the subject and the matter."
They cannot. They already failed. But they -- this behavior, now, when they torture and attack and are trying to be very aggressive on the people who are peacefully protesting in Tahrir Square and Liberation Square. Now, they're also failing. They will not win.
ANDERSON: All right --
MORSY: The people, now, whose head there were yesterday more than five million have expressed their desire for this regime to go. They will not go back and say something else. The people now are saying loudly and clearly, Mubarak regime is gone --
ANDERSON: All right --
MORSY: We are in a new era, and this regime, some of it now is trying to somehow hold dearly to their positions, they will not continue --
ANDERSON: OK, Mohamed, let me ask you a question. Let me put something to you. There have been suggestions or accusations that members of the Muslim Brotherhood, today, were out in the streets lobbing Molotov cocktails. Is that true? Do you know anything about that?
MORSY: Yes, yes. As you know, the Muslim Brotherhood percentage in those people is not high. This is the Egyptian people. This is a big block of the Egyptian people. Muslims and Christians, men and women, boys and girls. This is the Egyptian -- this is the Egyptian people. This is the Egyptian world. The Egyptian people's world.
It's not the Muslim Brotherhood only. It's not -- the protesters are quite mixed. It's very, very obvious that this is Egypt. This is the people of Egypt raising their voice, saying "We want freedom, democracy, and justice." Regardless of our beliefs or our color or our originality, we are all one voice saying, "Freedom, democracy, and justice."
ANDERSON: OK. It's been fears of extreme Islam, to a certain extent, that has legitimized, many will say, Mubarak's reign for the West, at least. I'm not suggesting by any stretch of the imagination that the Muslim Brotherhood is an extreme Islamic group, but there's been fears about what happened in Iran in 1979, for example --
ANDERSON: That have legitimized this reign over nearly 30 years. So, a couple of questions to you. For example, what sort of role and what sort of Egypt would the Muslim Brotherhood want to play going forward? And, for example, would you maintain the peace treaty with Israel?
MORSY: Yes, well -- let's say things without mixing it up. If it's -- the picture is different. Thirty years, we're talking about moderate group. We are not going to go extremists. Islam is moderate by definition, and the Islamic state is the civic state by definition, also. We don't know a separate state. We're talking about justice, freedom, and democracy.
We want the people's will to win. We're -- if people are trying, or some people, probably, in the regime or in the West sometimes, and especially the Zionists trying to mix it up and saying, "Well, this is extremist Islamist that will rule." This completely wrong. This is not correct.
We're talking, in Islam, in Egypt, Christians and Muslims all together. We're talking about civic states, civilian state by definition, and this is our desire --
ANDERSON: All right.
MORSY: And we, all Egyptians, want this.
ANDERSON: And with that, we're going to leave it there. We thank you very much, indeed, for joining us. I want to bring Ben back in, who's been listening to what Mohamed had to say. Didn't get to an answer for the last part of my question, there, Ben. But just your thoughts on what you've heard.
WEDEMAN: Well, certainly the Muslim Brotherhood is a big, important force in Egyptian politics. In 2005, they stunned everybody when they won about 20 percent of the seats in the Egyptian parliament.
But that was sort of used by the Mubarak government to scare Washington, which at the time, under President George W. Bush, was pressing the -- Mubarak for democratic reform. And in a sense, it was perceived here that the government allowed the Brotherhood, through its rigging of the elections, to win that many seats simply to show the United States it's either the Mubarak regime or the Muslim Brotherhood.
And so, the feeling of the protesters in Tahrir Square, many of whom believe that in free and fair elections, the Brotherhood would not fare very well, and they want to be given the chance to prove that.
Certainly, what we've seen in Tahrir is the Brotherhood is present, but not in the kind of numbers that one would expect. They're not 30 percent of the people in this square. Probably half that percentage. Becky?
ANDERSON: Ben, you've forgotten more about Egypt than most of us will ever know. On that note, and before we let you go tonight, your sense, just your sense, of what happens next.
WEDEMAN: It's impossible to say, really, Becky. What we have is a government that has given some concessions but, at the same time, sent a message today that those concessions come at a price. And we have, on the other hand, a protest movement that is saying "we are not going to accept these concessions. We are demanding the maximum. We want President Hosni Mubarak to leave."
They also are not happy with the presence in the government of people who are, essentially, Mubarak's men. We've reached sort of a stalemate here, where both sides have shown how powerful they can be, but neither side seems to actually be prevailing over the other. Becky?
ANDERSON: Fascinating. Ben Wedeman, on the ground in Cairo for you. Ben, with that, we'll let you go. We thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.
Do stay with us. You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD here on CNN. More on Egypt and the wider ripple effect, possibly a bigger story for the region. That's up next.
ANDERSON: Ongoing unrest in Cairo's Tahrir Square. Protesters still lobbing Molotov cocktails, sparking fires, with anti- and pro-government supporters continue to face off into the night.
You'll see the military and emergency vehicles are on the scene, and the latest from the Healthy Ministry into CNN in the last couple of minutes, three dead, more than 630 wounded in these clashes alone in Tahrir Square. Goodness only knows what's happening elsewhere.
Well, outside of Egypt, the winds of change continue to blow across Africa and the Middle East. Ahead of a planned Day of Rage, as it's going to be known, in Yemen, the country's president announced that he will not seek reelection. After more than three decades in power. Ani Abdullah -- Ali Abdullah Saleh said that he would step down in 2013 and denied that his son would succeed him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALI ABDULLAH SALEH, PRESIDENT OF YEMEN (through translator): That's not acceptable. That has been -- explanation, interpretation of others. What we are telling you that the presidency should be held for five years without breaking the shops, without mobs, without people going into the streets. This will include every citizen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: All right. Well, in recent weeks, thousands of Yemenis have taken part in protests to urge President Saleh to go. Yet, despite his pledge, opposition leaders say tomorrow's demonstrations will go ahead as planned.
More protests, too, in Jordan, a day after the government was dismissed by King Abdullah. Demonstrators are angry over the appointment of the country's new prime minister, Marouf al-Bakhit, a man charged with pushing through political reforms.
And in Tunisia, the interim government moved to take back control of the country's security forces after students took to the streets on Monday to demand better protection.
Well, it may seem a long time ago, but it's just over two weeks since Tunisia's president was forced to flee his country. Many are now wondering just how many more leaders might be forced to do the same. Nima Elbagir, our correspondent, here with me in the studio to discuss it.
You know the region really well. You've recently been in Sudan, of course, covering the referendum there. Scenes of protest, of course, there in the last couple of weeks, as well. What's the knock-on effect, do you think, here in the region?
NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what's interesting is that all of these leaders are facing very similar conditions to the ones that brought them into power when they led popular revolts. The same economic, the same political. And they're all around the same time frame, 20 or 30 years in power.
And although we are talking about these preemptive strikes against popular unrest as news, the reality is that, for their populaces, they've had all this before. In Jordan, since 1992, when multiparty elections were brought in, they've been calling form more political reforms.
President Saleh in Yemen, in 2006, he promised that this would be his last term, and now he's saying it's 2013. So, it really -- it feels like it's not just about Tunisia and Egypt. It feels like, again, this is a new wave of popular revolt, like the one we saw in the 60s.
ANDERSON: Looking at live pictures as we speak in the corner of our screens. They're live pictures from Tahrir Square.
I spoke to -- I spoke to a foreign minister, yesterday, before President Saleh's announcement which, of course, was today, when he said he wouldn't seek reelection. I asked him how authorities would deal with protesters taking part in tomorrow's Day of Rage. This is what he said. Have a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ABU BAKR AL-QIRBI, YEMENI FOREIGN MINISTER: As long as they are peaceful demonstrations, they are protected by the constitution and the law.
ANDERSON: Would you characterize Yemen as a democracy at present?
AL-QIRBI: Well, maybe not as an American democracy or a British democracy. But there is a democracy in Yemen, there's a multiparty system, there are elections. There is a potential for peaceful change of power in Yemen. And we've been reforming our process of our democracy continuously.
ANDERSON: Demonstrators want democratic change. Do you think they've got that?
AL-QIRBI: I think the economy is the ill of the Middle East. And it is what it's affecting the democratic process. If we can, really, achieve development in the Arab world, if we can get jobs for the young people, everything will stabilize to allow the process of democracy to take its role in an orderly manner.
ANDERSON: What are the biggest challenges, do you think, that Yemen faces in 2011?
AL-QIRBI: Development, economy. Creating jobs for young people. Providing them with a future. And this is, really, the way not only to create democracy, but also to fight terrorism and radicalization.
ANDERSON: And you think you're doing that?
AL-QIRBI: We are trying to do it the best we can with the means we have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: The foreign minister of a country that will face what will be known as a Day of Rage tomorrow. Your thoughts?
ELBAGIR: He is right. It is about the economy. But also, Becky, if there was a country that you were going to pick even prior to Tunisia's unrest as the country that was most likely to be a failed state this year, it would be Yemen.
They have a secessionist movement in the south, they have dwindling oil reserves, they have an al Qaeda presence. And that's why it's also the country that the West would least like to see go down.
ANDERSON: Let's have a listen, then, given what you've just said, to what the EU foreign minister had to say after her meeting with the Yemeni foreign minister earlier on today. This is what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CATHERINE ASHTON, EU FOREIGN POLICY CHIEF: Our message to the foreign minister was very simple. We are here to support you in that process. We want to see action. We want to see you move forward. But on economic, social, electoral, political, constitutional issues, we're here to help. And that's what we discussed.
ANDERSON: What would your message to those in Yemen who are organizing what is going to be called the Day of Rage Thursday be? What would you say to them? President Saleh has said that he will definitely not stand again in 2013. The protests don't seem to have had the traction that we've seen elsewhere, but they have called this Day of Rage. Your message to them.
ASHTON: Opposition leaders know that they need to get into dialogue with the government. It's not been easy. We've been pushing hard to make sure that the government responds to that. What we're beginning to see is a recognition that, again, governments have got to say what it is they're going to do and to demonstrate they've understood the messages that they're receiving. To work with the people to find the solutions, not to impose them, to work with them.
And I think in Yemen, as we were saying with the foreign ministry, it's really important that they engage with the opposition leaders, opposition parties, engage with local communities, engage with organizations of people, to try and work out what those solutions are and get on with it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: The EU foreign minister talking about Yemen. Is there clear evidence that governments, administrations, leaders across the region are listening to their people?
ELBAGIR: Well, one Arab diplomat I spoke to said to me that, actually, for them, Egypt is scarier than even Tunisia was. Because just one country is an anomaly, but two is a trend. And I think there is a lot of fear, right now, amongst the autocratic regimes that, if even Mubarak, whose regime was famous for its iron grip on its populace, can go down, then what's going to happen to the rest of us?
ANDERSON: Listen up, these leaders. Nima, we thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.
Up next, after a day of violence in Cairo, take a look at the faces behind these recent uprisings and how social networking is becoming a powerful political tool. Stay with us for that.
ANDERSON: Live pictures from Cairo's Tahrir Square for you. We've been seeing Molotov cocktails being thrown about in the last hour. The latest we are hearing now from Egypt's health minister, three people are dead, 639 are injured.
If you look at what's happened in Egypt, in Tunisia, and even, don't forget, in the Green Revolution in Iran back in 2009, there is an interesting link. The uprising have, in part, been fired up by the violent deaths of young people and the social networking sites that have turned them into icons.
Now, we do need to warn you that some of the scenes that you are about to see are graphic. Some of you may find them disturbing.
ANDERSON (voice-over): Egypt's revolt fueled, in part, by two martyrs, one real and one virtual. Khaled Said is one of the driving forces behind the protests. Allegedly beaten to death on the streets of Alexandria last year, his bloody face was broadcast across the internet.
But his death gave life to an online activist, who goes by the name of El Shaeed, the Martyr. His identity is top secret, but he set up the internet site and Facebook group "We Are All Khaled Said." It's played a crucial role in organizing the demonstrations.
In an e-mail, he told me, "Social media has been a vital tool for our activities. We use Facebook, Twitter, and any other tools available to spreading the word."
But this isn't the first time a movement has been galvanized by a figurehead with the power of modern technology. In Tunisia, Mohamed Bouazizi doused himself in petrol and set himself alight, committing suicide over the issue of unemployment. He became a hero in the bloggersphere and on the street.
And, of course, there was Neda Agha-Soltan in Iran. Her last agonizing moments were caught on camera and distributed everywhere. The 26-year-old became an instant icon for Iran's opposition movement, protesting the reelection of the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in 2009.
Different causes, different countries. But their faces have stoked the flames of unrest as ordinary online activists spread their stories.
ANDERSON: We've seen some dramatic scenes in Cairo, today. Let's take a look, then, at the day in pictures for you.
It all started peacefully enough, as policemen were lifted through the air by supporters of President Hosni Mubarak. Yet, the mood quickly changed as pro-Mubarak supporters mounted an attack, some using camels and horses to charge through the middle of anti-government protesters in Tahrir Square.
Hurling anything they could grab, the two sides fought pitched battles across the square. Here, opponents of Egypt's president break up paving stones to throw at Mubarak's supporters, while some are forced to take cover as the rocks continue to fly through the air.
Others aren't so lucky, when hundreds were injured in the melee. With police nowhere to be found, some anti-government protesters take the law into their own hands, bundling away this pro-Mubarak supporter.
As dusk fell, the stones continued to rain down from the skies, along with a new danger, petrol bombs, which in turn sparked fires across the square.
I'm Becky Anderson. Thanks for watching. The world news headlines are next. I'm going to leave you with pictures from Cairo's Tahrir Square. Molotov cocktails still being tossed about, you can see them. Every now and then, it seems, a fire is -- a vehicle on fire, there, in the center of the square. More than 600 have been wounded. Stay with CNN.