tv NBC Nightly News NBC January 30, 2011 5:30pm-6:00pm PST
$10,000. the wedding is set for april 29th. nbc nightly news is next and more bay area news at 6:00. crisis in egypt. another day of chaos in the streets and a show of force, f-16s soaring over cairo. president mubarak is clinging to power, but is he losing the support of a crucial ally in washington? tonight, the strongest words yet from the white house as americans in egypt scramble to get home. captions paid for by nbc-universal television good evening. lester is in egypt tonight. we will be checking in with him shortly on what is turning into another chaotic and dangerous night on the streets of cairo.
protesters are once again ignoring the curfew. the death toll stands at more than 100 now, with thousands more injured. tonight, the state department is making plans to evacuate thousands of u.s. citizens on chartered planes starting tomorrow. and signs today the white house may be distancing itself from the mubarak government. president obama said the u.s. supports "an orderly transition in egypt." we have special coverage from cairo and across the middle east this evening, beginning again with our chief foreign correspondent richard engel in cairo. richard? >> reporter: good evening, kate. we've been hearing bursts of automatic gunfire tonight as soldiers fire on looters who are trying to raid a church. this is a situation now where no one is truly in charge, not the police, not the government, not even the army. the army has sent tanks into the streets, and today, fighter jets buzzed cairo. egypt has gone from a police state to a state of chaos.
but the show of force isn't stopping thousands of demonstrators. >> no one is afraid of the curfew. we have been afraid for 30 years and no one is afraid now. >> reporter: and with each day, more soldiers, the backbone of president mubarak's regime, are joining the protests against him. but away from the rallies, egypt is spinning out of control. looting has become widespread. the government pulled all police from their posts yesterday. it created a drastic security vacuum. there have been breakouts at at least five prisons. witnesses say up to 10,000 prisoners have escaped, murderers, rapists and also islamic militants. egyptians now fear crime and terrorism. the escapees included more than 30 leaders from the muslim brotherhood, a banned islamic group that has joined the protests. in alexandria today, huge crowds gather to bury some of the more
than 100 killed so far. medical officials tell nbc news, 4,000 have been injured and 500 people are missing, many of them women. for protection, egyptians are now relying on themselves. across cairo, a kind of mob justice is being established. gangs of vigilantes are stopping cars, setting up checkpoints. they say they are looking for looters and thieves. the neighborhood guards are armed with sticks, metal bars, golf clubs, knives, anything they can find. >> it's very terrifying. everybody has gone into their house, their wives, their sisters, their brothers, everything. we don't sleep. >> reporter: the vigilantes have made hundreds of citizen arrests and witnesses say they have killed and beaten an unknown number of suspected looters. the arrival of vigilantes stopping cars at will has terrified foreigners in egypt. this revolt still has no single leader, but the former u.n. weapons inspector, mohamed elbaradei, clearly wants the role. tonight, defying a curfew, he
spoke to protestors in cairo and called for president mubarak to step down. "you've taken back your rights," he told the demonstrators. "what we have begun cannot go back." >> our feelings are mutual. he could form a mutual government and lead us out of this mess. >> reporter: elbaradei so far doesn't have broad popularity here. the noble laureate has spent much of his life outside egypt. president mubarak briefly appeared on television, meeting his national security council. military sources tell nbc news he has already handed some authority to his newly appointed vice president, omar suleiman. but the unrest and now crime here only seem to be convincing more egyptians that mubarak should step down to prevent more bloodshed. egyptian police have begun to redeploy across egypt. the government says they will return to the streets of cairo tomorrow. kate?
>> richard, you lived there for four years. you know this place so well. you have been there on the ground for several days now. what's the main difference today from prior days? >> reporter: every day that passes, more and more average people, the working class of egypt, are joining these protests. it is not just a student movement anymore. it is not a religious or political fringe movement. it is the unemployed, it is the average egyptian who has now decided to take his grievances to the street and ask for mubarak to step down. >> richard engel reporting again tonight from cairo. thank you. the state department said today it will help americans who want to get out of egypt. charter flights that begin tomorrow will carry nonessential embassy personnel and dependents first and then other american citizens who want to leave. cnbc's erin burnett reports from cairo on the tense wait for a flight out. >> reporter: caught in the uprising, thousands of tourists, including americans, fill cairo's airport. trapped in the rising chaos in
the streets and stranded by canceled flights. today, the u.s. state department announced it will be chartering planes for americans who want to leave. for eleanor radcliffe from virginia, holed up in her hotel for days now, it won't be a moment too soon. >> i didn't actually feel nervous or upset about anything until the jets started flying overhead. and i was sitting outside and one came very low over the hotel and i thought we were being bombed. >> reporter: there are currently 50,000 americans in egypt who have registered with the u.s. embassy. in the coming days, the state department estimates thousands of them will try to get flights out of the country. >> it's very chaotic for us and we don't speak the language and it's hard to communicate with people and get information. and so, the best thing for us is to get to the airport. >> reporter: some though who have ventured out from their hotels have first-person accounts of the protests and military response. >> never seen anything like it before. i kind of -- i walked out into the crowds and kind of saw what was going on.
there was a lot of, i don't know, tear gas. it was the first time i've ever smelled tear gas. that was interesting. >> certainly not what most people in mind when they think of a vacation to egypt where they expect to see the pyramids and so many amazing historical treasures. we can tell you is jarring here and it is difficult to get around. we came to the airport, a trip that usually takes about a half an hour, maybe a little bit more to get to our bureau, took more than three hours and the reason the vigilantes richard was talking about. we saw 20 to 30 groups of them, young boys all the way to middle-aged men and they were carrying everything from golf clubs to axes, shotguns, that they were handling very cavalierly. anything, bats, particularly bats. and they told us they were protecting their families from looters. some of them told us that egypt is better than this when it comes to security. one thing that hit home for us, kate, was on our final stretch coming to the bureau in the car. the army actually fired a
warning shot at our car because we were driving too fast. and it just goes to show you it can be frightening indeed here tonight. back to you. >> erin burnett, take care please, thank you. and erin will have more in a special report on cnbc tonight at 8:00 eastern. we should also mention we have posted the state department contact information for anyone with loved ones in egypt right now on our website. that's nightly.msnbc.com. and now on to the response to all of this from the white house. today, secretary of state hillary clinton was the face of the administration, appearing on every network to call for an orderly transition to democracy in egypt. she spoke with nbc's david gregory on "meet the press." >> should mubarak lose power? would the united states offer him sanctuary? >> yeah, i believe strongly that we are only at the beginning of what is unfolding in egypt. i'm not going to go into hypotheticals and speculation, other than to say that president mubarak and his government have been an important partner to the
united states. >> but you'd like to see him stay in power? >> david, you cannot keep trying to put words in my mouth. i have never said that. i don't intend to say that. i want the egyptian people to have the chance to chart a new future. it needs to be an orderly, peaceful transition to real democracy, not faux democracy, like the elections we saw in iran two years ago, where you have one election 30 years ago and then the people just keep staying in power and become less and less responsive to their people. we want to see a real democracy that reflects the vibrancy of egyptian society. and we believe that president mubarak, his government, civil society, political activists, need to be part of a national dialogue to bring that about. >> secretary clinton on "meet the press" this morning. nbc's chief foreign affairs correspondent andrea mitchell is in washington with us tonight. andrea, you saw the secretary bristle there for a moment, saying "don't put words in my mouth."
the united states walking a delicate line here, calling for a transition to democracy? >> exactly right. absolutely. good evening, kate. the key change today is that call by the president and secretary clinton for what they are saying is an orderly transition. officials say that means permitting political parties, debate, real elections with a choice of candidates for the first time. they want to avoid the impression, you saw that with the secretary's statement, that the u.s. is in any way calling the shots. they know that would backfire. they fear that if mubarak were forced to give up power now, right away, islamic extremists would try to take over. a big u.s. concern, of course is what's happening in egypt and before that in tunisia will now spread to other pro-west arab countries. and in fact, when president obama talked to the saudi king, king abdullah this weekend, u.s. officials said that the president stressed the need for universal rights and an orderly transition to a government that is "responsive to the egyptian people." but the saudis said that the two leaders talked about looting and attempts to ignite the flames of chaos.
a senior u.s. official told me that what we see as democracy they see as chaos. another official said that the king sees the writing on the wall and fears it is now coming his way. >> and andrea, what about on the military side? is the pentagon in touch with military leaders over in egypt? >> you bet, kate. both defense secretary gates and the chairman of the joint chiefs, admiral mullins, have both talked to their counterparts this weekend, urging the army to keep doing what it's doing, and that means don't crack down on the protesters but go after the looters to preserve order. and they seem to be doing it, as we've seen. >> forgive me, andrea mitchell in washington tonight, thank you so much. as we mentioned, lester holt is also in egypt tonight in sharm ell shake on the sinai peninsula. and with communication extremely limited there, he was able to file this late report for us tonight. >> reporter: kate, thanks and good evening. sharm el-sheik has provided a reliable back door to this country after flights in and out of cairo were disrupted by the curfew. the airport here is working. the land route, however, from here to cairo is questionable.
there are reports that native bedouins have formed ad hoc security teams and roadblocks along the way. we opted not to make that drive in the dark. the country continues to say this resort area is unaffected by the crisis although at least one foreign ministry has advised its citizens to not go out at night. we flew in today from europe. we were surprised, frankly, the plane was filled with tourists, many of them families coming here on holiday. one other note, you have been hearing the internet is largely down in egypt the last few days. there are signs the situation is improving. kate, we are in fact able to come to you tonight we were able to fashion a work-around of sorts to get this report to you via the internet. and right now, we are going to send it back to new new york. >> least ere holt reporting from sharm el sheikh, thank you. just across egypt's border, israelis and palestinians are, watching events unfold with growing nervousness. michelle kosinski joins us live now from tel aviv with that part of the story. michelle? >> reporter: hi, kate. people here say they know they are watching history unfold around the clock on their
television. of course, for them, the difference is it is so close. already, we are seeing some people enter gaza from egypt through tunnels and what happens to egypt next will determine whether israel still has that one key ally in its own region. on a rainy night in tel aviv, people warm up in cafes to relax, the conversation returns to the fire that's raging a border away. >> we watch television and we are frayed. we are afraid. no doubt, every israeli is afraid. >> reporter: afraid of losing mubarak and egypt as an ally, even if it is, they acknowledge, a cold peace, but one that's endured more than 30 years. afraid of the potential for a harder line islamic leadership there, strengthening others around them. afraid of militants crossing through tunnels into the gaza strip, like newly escaped prisoner hassan washa, who readily admits he was locked up in egypt for plotting an attack on israel. >> translator: i was not successful.
i'm grateful to god in any case. >> reporter: in the palestinian city of ramallah, worries about unrest spreading but many hoping it will. >> i think if there is a democratic regime in egypt, that that will be very good for palestinian/israeli conflict. >> reporter: in tel aviv, too, it's the young people who say the same thing, not afraid. this 32-year-old writer feels for the egyptian poor, the freedoms they want that she enjoys. >> i mean, the people who demonstrate now in egypt are the young people. the people that work hard, they should earn enough to make a living and live properly. the people want to be free. >> reporter: young people here see what's happening in egypt coming from other young people who are a lot like them. of course, the big unknown is who will gain power next? and today, prime minister benjamin netanyahu, who spoke to president obama and secretary of state clinton yesterday said the
goal is to preserve peace with egypt and to act now with responsibility, restraint and careful consideration, kate. >> michelle kosinski tonight in israel, thank you. still to come as we continue here this sunday night, egypt pulls the plug on a popular television network and suddenly, a news source is making news of its own around the world. and later, saving egypt's priceless troves of ancient treasures in the midst of the uprising.
today, the egyptian government shut down the most influential source of information for its citizens, al jazeera television. the news network is highly trusted by the arab people, but an irritant to many arab governments, including egypt's. now, al jazeera is taking on a whole new role, as nbc's martin fletcher reports. >> reporter: his back against the wall, president mubarak struck back today at the messenger, banning al jazeera's arabic-language tv network in egypt, closing its office in cairo, silencing its reporters. 10:52 a.m., al jazeera in egypt shuts down. the government accused al jazeera of fanning the flames of revolt by its relentless dramatic images of violence. al jazeera hit back, accusing mubarak of trying to "stifle and repress free reporting." >> even if you take al jazeera out of egypt, my sense is that events going on there will continue to unfold.
>> reporter: al jazeera's long been controversial, heavily criticizing the united states for broadcasting every word of al qaeda leader osama bin laden. but in the middle east, al jazeera is, by far, the most popular and trusted tv news channel. >> they read public opinion and they cater to it. they are the closest thing to public opinion there is. >> reporter: that makes it a threat to arab governments still trying to control the message. al jazeera is already banned in iraq. in lebanon last week, demonstrators attacked and burned its satellite truck. and in the west bank this month, demonstrators attacked its offices after palestinian authority president mahmoud abbas accused al jazeera of trying to destroy him politically. and it was al jazeera's nonstop coverage of tunisia's successful revolt against their president this month that encouraged egyptian protesters. egyptian tv today released these
pictures it wants people to see, president mubarak leading a government meeting, business as usual. but outside, even without al jazeera, the street tells a different story. martin fletcher, nbc news, new york. up next, don't put the shovels away. another winter storm headed for a large part of the nation.
investigators in oregon resumed their search today for 8-year-old kyron horman who disappeared from his school seven months ago after a science fair. they searched rural areas north and west of portland. investigators say snow prevented them from searching these new locations until now. there's another winter storm headed for the midwest and northeast and it is expected to impact 29 states. in fact, united airlines has already waived its change fees for passengers scheduled to fly in and out of chicago o'hare from tuesday to thursday. the weather channel's adam berg has the latest for us. good evening, adam. say it ain't so.
>> reporter: good evening, kate. i wish i could say it ain't so, but this is yet another system and a lot of folks here at the weather channel, national weather service, we're calling this one here maybe one of the more significant systems of the season and we are already so sick and tired of it. so, let's get to the maps and show everybody exactly how this is going to play out. as we go into monday, denver, kansas city, st. louis, chicago, all feeling the impacts here. and as we go monday and then into tuesday that area of low pressure will kick out of the four corners region and we could be looking at some significant icing, gang, anywhere from st. louis all the way through indianapolis over toward columbus, ohio. some areas maybe half-inch to an inch of ice coating some of these areas. and then we follow this right into wednesday across the northeast, mid-atlantic. look at some of the snow totals already across this region. new york city, for instance, averaging about 22 inches for the entire season, already here, almost looking at three times that amount and here comes more. we are tired of it. >> we are. thank you, adam. appreciate it.
about treasures destroyed or defiled, looters taking advantage of the chaos. at the egyptian museum in cairo this weekend, soldiers surveyed the damage. 14 cases, priceless artifacts, damaged by thieves who seem to be hunting for gold. >> they were able, these two people, to enter inside the cairo museum from the top and they destroyed two mummies. >> reporter: concerned egyptians formed a human chain to protect the museum's treasures. >> but thanks god there is some egyptians, really good egyptians, tried to stop them. >> reporter: still, the damage was done. all over the world are studying the grainy images on websites, conferring with each other on blogs and to their trained eyes, the destruction is devastating. >> it just hurts. it really hurts. >> reporter: dr. bob briar is an expert on egyptian mummies who has been to that museum more than 100 times. >> it's like our smithsonian.
it is a repository of egyptian culture. >> reporter: many of the damaged or looted items came from the tomb of that famous pharaoh, king tut. what are we looking at right there? >> that is a tutankhamen object, king tut, it is a wooden statue, that he was buried with. it was a panther, and he was standing on top of it, and that was once in beautiful condition. >> reporter: how old is that? >> more than 3,300 years old. >> reporter: two mummies were damaged. there are reports they may have been beheaded. >> this was on the mummy of tutankhamen's great-grandmother. >> reporter: and today, reports of looting at other archaeological sites, including one of egypt's ancient burial grounds. today, the military stood guard at the museum and at the famous pyramids, closed now to tourists. experts are hopeful egypt has enough security forces to protect most of its history, literally millions of ancient artifacts. >> now you know you have really got to protect everything and they are gonna do it. >> we certainly hope so. that is "nbc nightly news" for this sunday. brian williams will be back with you tomorrow. i'te