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Three killed as Tunisian unrest sparks street violence in Egypt

Tens of thousands of people inspired by the recent revolt in Tunisia took to the streets of Egypt's cities yesterday, calling for an end to president Hosni Mubarak's almost 30-year rule in demonstrations which erupted into violent clashes.

Two protesters and one policeman were killed in the anti-government demonstrations in Cairo and several other cities, an Egyptian interior ministry official said.

The official said one of the two protesters killed during a demonstration in the city of Suez had respiratory problems and died as a result of tear gas inhalation. The other was killed by a rock thrown during the protest.

The policeman died during the protest in Cairo. The official said he was hit on the head by a rock.

Protesters in the capital city had been throwing missiles and bottles and had attempted to clamber aboard security vehicles. Police retaliated with water canons and tear gas in attempts to disperse the crowds. Chanting “Down with Mubarak” and “Freedom”, marchers railed against corruption, failed economic policies and a police state that is quick to crack down on dissent.

The unauthorised protests were the largest seen in Egypt in many years, and come as leaders in the Arab world — fearful of a domino effect from the events in Tunisia — try to placate citizens weary of authoritarian rule and worsening quality of life.

Thousands of helmeted police were widely deployed throughout Cairo yesterday, corralling off protesters and blocking off routes of entry. But as the protests gathered in strength, television footage showed demonstrators chasing police down side streets.

One protester climbed into a fire engine and drove it away.

The police response appeared

relatively restrained at first in a country where security forces are usually quick to crack down on flash protests and are accused of brutality. Security sources were quoted as saying they were under orders not to clash with protesters.

But as huge crowds swarmed into Cairo's central Tahrir Square, the police changed tactics, turning violent and beating protesters.

Much of the anger was aimed at the ageing Mr Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt with an iron fist since 1981 and is expected to run for another term in elections in September, despite the many questions surrounding his health. Analysts say that he is grooming his son Gamal to succeed him.

Protests broke out in several other Egyptian cities, and it was estimated that some 20,000 people came out onto the streets.

“We are fed-up, this is just enough,” Sayid Abdelfatah, a 38-year-old civil servant, said. “Tunisia's revolution inspired me.”

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