Egyptian prime minister steps down; armed forces appoint former transport minister to position

Ahmed Shafik Egypt’s acting prime minister has resigned, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, now in control of the country, announced on Thursday.

Shafik was appointed to his position by then Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak during the 2011 Egypt anti-government protests, not long before Mubarak decided to resign as president on February 11, 2011. Meanwhile, a number of his cabinet ministers have retained their positions. Shafik had received criticism for his negative attitude towards young protesters and his “inadequate vision”, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Ahmed Mohamed Shafik, who served as Prime Minister of Egypt from January 2011 to March 2011.

In response to the announcement of Shafik’s resignation, Wael Ghonim, a Google executive, credited with organizing the first demonstration and a former political prisoner, wrote on Twitter, a micro-blogging website, “Power to the people!” During the Egyptian protests, one of the key demands of the protesters was that Shafik step down from his acting minister status. Mohamed ElBaradei, another pro-democracy activist and co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, tweeted on Twitter that Egypt is “on the right track.”

Mohamed Mustafa ElBaradei, Former Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The statement released by the Council also announced Essam Sharaf as the new prime minister. “The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces decided to accept the resignation of Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq and appointed Essam Sharaf to form the new government,” the armed forces said on social networking website Facebook.

Sharaf formerly held the position as the Minister of Transportation. The Los Angeles Times reports that he departed from that position five years ago, during the aftermath of numerous train collisions in which the Egyptian government was accused of carelessness.

Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was considered persona non grata by Egypt on Monday, as was his family. According to BBC News Online, Mubarak is not in the good health and has yet been seen or heard from in public since his resignation.

Despite having achieved one of their aims, protesters intend to continue demonstrating with mass rallies on Friday because all their demands have yet to be met. The removal of a current emergency law is amongst those demands. The law allows the Egyptian government to place people under arrest without charges brought against them. In a statement, the January 25 Youth Coalition said that they “still demand a specific time frame to achieve the rest of the revolution’s basic demands.” The protesters also continue to request the removal of ministers with ties to the old regime.

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Libya blocks access to Internet

The Libyan government has cut off Internet access in the country. The General Posts and Telecommunications Company, Libya’s main provider of Internet access, has ceased to function. It was shut down following citizen protests against the country’s leader, Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi, who has been in power since 1969.

The government of Egypt took a similar measure last month, when it cut off Internet trying to quell public protests against the regime. Despite the government’s efforts, Egyptians who took to the streets for two weeks were able to oust the nation’s president, Hosni Mubarak, after 30 years in office.

Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi, also known as Colonel Gaddafi, has been the leader of Libya since 1969. In the picture, al-Gaddafi in Dimashq, Syria. Image: James Gordon.

Limited access to the Internet makes it difficult to get information from the country. Libya is a country with a smaller population than Egypt, and has fewer service providers, which has apparently made the task of disconnecting everything a little easier.

In Egypt, the military refused to attack people protesting. The situation is different in Libya, where the armed forces attacked hundreds of demonstrators in the square of the city of Benghazi, causing many deaths.

The increasing violence in Libya has prompted the 27 European Union ministers to issue a statement protesting Libyan governmental violence toward protesters, saying it “condemns the ongoing repression against demonstrators in Libya and deplores the violence and death of civilians.” Two Libyan pilots have defected to Malta and asked for asylum, saying that they were ordered to fire on protesters, according to Maltese officials.

The violence has spread to Tripoli. Witnesses have reported that a “massacre” occurred today in suburbs of the Libyan capital with the indiscriminate shooting of women and children. According to Human Rights Watch, hundreds have died over the last four days.

The escalating violence is causing turbulence in the world energy markets. The International Monetary Fund says that energy exports accounts for approximately 95% of Libya’s export earning.

Hosni Mubarak

Hosni Mubarak has stepped down as the president of Egypt, handing control of the country to the armed forces. Mubarak stepped down after eighteen days of mass protests across the country.

Muhammad Hosni Sayyid Mubarak

“In these difficult circumstances that the country is passing through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to leave the position of the presidency. He has commissioned the armed forces council to direct the issues of the state,” said the vice president of Egypt, Omar Suleiman. Both houses of parliament and the cabinet are expected to be suspended following Mubarak’s resignation the BBC reports, quoting Al-Arabiya.

In response to the resignation, Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei stated that “This is the greatest day of my life. The country has been liberated.”

Mubarak had been Egypt’s president for nearly 30 years.

Egypt protests: Army say they will not use force on demonstrators as Mubarak announces cabinet

The president of Egypt has suffered a “devastating blow” after the country’s army announced they would not use force against their own people, who continue to protest against the government tonight. The news came hours after six journalists who reported on the protests were released from custody.

Hosni Mubarak yesterday announced a new cabinet, which does not include several figures who protesters largely do not approve of. Analysts have, however, suggested little had changed within the government; many positions, they say, are filled with military figures.

Army will ‘not use force’

In a statement broadcast on state media in Egypt, the army said: “To the great people of Egypt, your armed forces, acknowledging the legitimate rights of the people … have not and will not use force against the Egyptian people.” A BBC correspondent in Cairo said the announcement meant it “now seems increasingly likely that the 30-year rule of Mr Mubarak is drawing to a close.”

Egyptian army soldiers monitor protests over the weekend. Image: Ramy Raoof.

“The presence of the army in the streets is for your sake and to ensure your safety and wellbeing. The armed forces will not resort to use of force against our great people,” the statement added. “Your armed forces, who are aware of the legitimacy of your demands and are keen to assume their responsibility in protecting the nation and the citizens, affirms that freedom of expression through peaceful means is guaranteed to everybody.”

Journalists released

Earlier today, six journalists from the independent news network Al-Jazeera were released from custody after being detained by police. The U.S. State Department criticized the arrests; equipment was reportedly confiscated from the journalists.

Egyptian officials yesterday ordered the satellite channel to stop broadcasting in the country. Al-Jazeera said they were “appalled” by the government’s decision to close its Egyptian offices, which they described as the “latest attack by the Egyptian regime to strike at its freedom to report independently on the unprecedented events in Egypt.”

In a statement, the news agency added: “Al-Jazeera sees this as an act designed to stifle and repress the freedom of reporting by the network and its journalists. In this time of deep turmoil and unrest in Egyptian society it is imperative that voices from all sides be heard; the closing of our bureau by the Egyptian government is aimed at censoring and silencing the voices of the Egyptian people.”

On Friday, Wikinews reported the government had shut off practically all Internet traffic both out of and into the nation, as well as disrupting cellphone usage. A spokesperson for the social networking website Facebook said “limiting Internet access for millions of people is a matter of concern for the global community.”

Protests continue

A reported 50,000 campaigners, who are demanding the long-time leader step down and complaining of poverty, corruption, and oppression, filled Tahrir Square in Cairo today, chanting “We will stay until the coward leaves.” It is thought 100 people have so far died in the demonstrations. Today there have been protests in Suez, Mansoura, Damanhour, and Alexandria.

Protesters in Tahrir Square on Sunday. Image: Mona.

Speaking to news media in the area, many protesters said the new cabinet did little to quell their anger. “We want a complete change of government, with a civilian authority,” one said. Another added: “This is not a new government. This is the same regime—this is the same bluff. [Mubarak] has been bluffing us for 30 years.”

In Tahrir Square today, protesters played music as strings of barbed wire and army tanks stood nearby. Demonstrators scaled light poles, hanging Egyptian flags and calling for an end to Mubarak’s rule. “One poster featured Mubarak’s face plastered with a Hitler mustache, a sign of the deep resentment toward the 82-year-old leader they blame for widespread poverty, inflation and official indifference and brutality during his 30 years in power,” one journalist in the square reported this evening.

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