As darkness fell Friday, thousands of angry Egyptians defied a government curfew and stinging police tear gas to march on the streets demanding change.
The United States appealed for restraint, but Friday evening the sounds of what seemed to be gunfire rang out near a Cairo police station on which protesters had converged.
The government cracked down throughout the day with thousands of riot and plain-clothes police and the force of the army in armored personnel carriers equipped with gun turrets. Undeterred, people ran, screamed, hurled rocks and accosted walls of security as they tried to make their way to central Cairo.
Embattled President Hosni Mubarak imposed a nationwide curfew from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. State-run Nile TV said the curfew was in response to the "hooliganism and lawlessness" of the protesters.
Vans packed with riot police circled Cairo neighborhoods before the start of weekly prayers in the afternoon. Later in the day, Egyptian soldiers moved onto the streets, the first time the army has been deployed to quell unrest since 1985.
But protesters, fed up with economic woes and a lack of freedoms, defied all warnings to demand an end to Mubarak's authoritarian 30-year-rule.
They chanted "God is Great" and the dictator must go. "Down, Down, Mubarak," they shouted.
Plumes of rancid, thick smoke billowed over the Nile River as, by day's close, chaos reigned in the bustling metropolis. Fires could be seen in front of the Egyptian ruling party's headquarters.
Police fired tear gas with force and impunity. A tourist on the balcony of his 18th floor hotel room told CNN he had to run in and wash his eyes and face from the stinging gas.
Police confiscated cameras from people, including guests at the Hilton Hotel.
As the government cracked down on protesters across Egypt, opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei, who returned home to Cairo to join the demonstrations, was placed under house arrest, a high-level security source told CNN.
ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize winner and former head of the United Nations' nuclear watchdog agency, was warned earlier not to leave a mosque near downtown Cairo where he was attending Friday prayers.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed the Egyptian crisis Friday, urging all parties to be peaceful and engage in dialog.
Filed under: 360° Radar
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