Violent protest spread across Cairo and other Egyptian cities on Friday as tens of thousands of demonstrators intensified their campaign to oust President Hosni Mubarak, pouring from mosques after noon prayers and clashing with police who fired tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons.
The protests came after weeks of turmoil across the Arab world that toppled one leader in Tunisia and encouraged protesters to overcome deep-rooted fears of their autocratic leaders and take to the streets. But Egypt is a special case — a heavyweight in Middle East diplomacy, in part because of its peace treaty with Israel, and a key ally of the United States. The country, often the fulcrum on which currents in the region turn, also has one of the most largest and most sophisticated security forces in the Middle East.
In what protesters called a “day of wrath,” a crowd of at least 10,000 people moved east from Cairo’s Mohandeseen neighborhood, trying to reach the central Tahrir Square that has been an epicenter of protest. The demonstrations were on a scale far beyond anything in the memory of most residents.
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