CAIRO (AP) – Violence escalated in two cites outside the capital Cairo Thursday where anti-government protesters torched a fire station and looted weapons that they then turned on police. Egypt’s top democracy advocate returned to the country and declared he was ready to lead the campaign to oust longtime President Hosni Mubarak.
In the flashpoint city of Suez, east of Cairo, witnesses said rioters — some wearing surgical masks to ward off tear gas — firebombed the main fire station and firefighters jumped out windows to escape the flames, as heavy black smoke billowed from the building. In the northern Sinai area of Sheik Zuweid, several hundred Bedouins and police exchanged live gunfire, killing a 17-year-old man. About 300 protesters surrounded a police station from rooftops of nearby buildings and fired two RPGs at it, damaging the walls.
Social networking sites were abuzz with talk that Friday’s rallies could be some of the biggest so far calling for the ouster of Mubarak after 30 years in power. Millions gather at mosques across the city for Friday prayers, providing organizers with a huge number of people already out on the streets to tap into.