A protester looks at a burnt Egyptian Army armoured vehicle in downtown Cairo, January 28, 2011.
Credit: Reuters/Goran Tomasevic
CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak refused on Saturday to bow demands that he resign, after ordering troops and tanks into cities in an attempt to quell an explosion of street protest against his 30-year rule.
Mubarak dismissed his government and called for national dialogue to avert chaos after a day of battles between police and protesters angry over poverty and autocratic rule. Medical sources said at least 24 people had been killed and over a thousand injured in clashes in Cairo, Suez and Alexandria.
The unprecedented unrest has sent shock waves through the Middle East, where other autocratic rulers may face challenges, and unsettled global financial markets on Friday. U.S. President Barack Obama said he had spoken with Mubarak and urged "concrete steps that advance the rights of the Egyptian people".
Demonstrators at first cheered tanks and armoured cars as they filed through Cairo and Suez, but the mood appeared to change. The army, deployed for the first time in four days of protests, cleared Cairo's Tahrir square towards midnight.
Shortly after Mubarak's speech, protesters drifted back in their hundreds, defying a curfew.
"It is not by setting fire and by attacking private and public property that we achieve the aspirations of Egypt and its sons, but they will be achieved through dialogue, awareness and effort," said Mubarak, in his first public appearance, on state television, since unrest broke out four days ago.
Shots were heard in the evening near parliament and the headquarters of the ruling National Democratic Party was in flames, the blaze lighting up the night sky. Cars were set alight and police posts torched.
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