Tahrir Square in Cairo this morning. (source: Al Jazeera via Livestation)

Tensions are mounting in Egypt:

About two hours before this post’s publication, six of Al Jazeera’s journalists in Egypt were apparently taken into custody by the Egyptian military, their equipment confiscated. Al Jazeera’s broadcast programming are still connected to several members of their team in Cairo, but they are not giving their names for security reasons.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P.J. Crowley expressed disappointment with this development by Twitter about one hour later:

“We are concerned by the shutdown of #Al-Jazeera in #Egypt and arrest of its correspondents. Egypt must be open and the reporters released.”

Al Jazeera now reports that their team members have been released but that their ability to report has been hampered by the loss of their equipment.

Additional media disruptions appear to be increasing; Al Arabiya’s internet-based coverage has been intermittent, believed to be due to heavy traffic volume, and cell phone service has been disrupted.

President Hosni Mubarak has sworn in a replacement government — not a new government, per se, since most if not all of them are members of the government stepping from a subordinate role to replace their now-resigned superior in the same department. Mubarak has also called on new Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq to begin talks with opposition groups.

Individuals inside Egypt are reporting that train service has been halted; it’s believed this is meant to deter attendance at a Million Man March called for by the April 6 youth activist opposition group. The march planned for Tuesday may include a general strike.

Foreign visitors have begun to leave the country via charter planes.

UPDATE – 9:45 a.m. ET — News site Al Masry Al Youm reports that opposition groups have issued a deadline to the Egyptian army to take sides before Friday; a march to the presidential palace in Heliopolis is being organized for the same day, beginning after Friday prayers.

We are all Khaled Said reports approximately 100,000 protesters have congregated in and around Tahrir Square in Cairo, in advance of tomorrow’s Million Man March. The photo provided at that site is rather poor, but Al Jazeera’s video coverage via Livestation.com appears to support the purported number.

UPDATE – 9:55 a.m. ET — Foreign Affairs magazine tweets,

Profile of #El Baradei: “a political entrepreneur who can exploit the gap between regime rhetoric & empirical reality” http://fam.ag/dO7Y06

It’s an interesting piece, not a clear endorsement of Mohamed ElBaradei as a potential leader. What’s of real value in this piece by Steven A. Cook for Foreign Affairs is the overview of the events which precipitated the current uprising. It may be beneficial to read Cook’s piece from March 2009 reviewing Bruce Rutherford’s Egypt After Mubarak, which discussed how Muslim Brotherhood, the judiciary, and business in Egypt may be able to work together to change Egypt.

Given the date of Rutherford’s book and Cook’s review, it’s puzzling that the White House and State Department have been caught flat-footed in terms of their public handling of the Egyptian uprising.

Watch for more updates here at Firedoglake.

UPDATE – 10:55 a.m. ET – Note this screenshot from Al Jazeera’s live coverage; the image appears to be from Egyptian state television, which means that the rest of Egypt must be seeing this as well.

Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, approx. 5:50 p.m. local time. (source: Al Jazeera via Livestation)

Al Jazeera reports that people are continuing to gather and increase in number in the square, defying the current curfew.



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