Two civilians and a police officer have died after a wave of unusually large anti-government demonstrations swept across Egypt, calling for the ouster of longtime president Hosni Mubarak.
In central Cairo, crowds numbering in the thousands protested and clashed with police throughout the day. Shortly after midnight on Wednesday morning, security forces violently dispersed those who remained in Tahrir Square, the heart of the city, Al Jazeera_s Adam Makary reported.
Security officers fired tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets to drive the protesters from the square, where they had chosen to remain throughout the night in protest. An Al Jazeera cameraman was shot with rubber bullets several times, including once in the face, Makary said.
Telephone communication with people in central Cairo was nearly impossible, but Makary reported that the crowds, which had been peaceful, had been forced to escape the police, who fired dozens of tear gas canisters.
But demonstrations occurred throughout Egypt.
Two civilians died in the eastern city of Suez, according to an interior ministry official. One, who had respiratory problems, died after inhaling tear gas; the other died after being hit with a rock thrown during a protest, the official said.
In Cairo, a police officer died after being hit in the head with a rock during earlier protests in Tahrir Square, the official said.
The demonstrations were reportedly the largest in years, rivaling those held against the Iraq War in 2003 and in favor of free elections and civil society reforms in 2005.
On Tuesday night, hours after the countrywide protests began, the interior ministry issued a statement blaming the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt_s technically banned but largest opposition party, for fomenting the unrest.
But the Brotherhood denied the accusation and had earlier stated its intention to stay out of the protest; indeed, some observers noted the lack of Brotherhood mobilization on Tuesday.