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Wednesday, February 9, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

New interior minister called 'biggest change' since anti-Mubarak demonstrations began

CAIRO — Egypt's new security chief has ordered forces to demonstrate restraint against the opposition that demands the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.


Officials said Interior Minister Mahmoud Wagdy has warned security forces not to fire on protesters massed in Cairo's Tahrir Square. They said Wagdy, who recently replaced Interior Minister Habib Adli, has also reduced abuse of detainees in Egyptian prisons.

"He represents the biggest change in the regime over the last two weeks," an official said.

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Officials said Adli was replaced as part of a Cabinet reshuffle meant to meet the demands of the opposition, Middle East Newsline reported. They said Adli was being investigated on charges that he ordered police and security forces to fire on demonstrators in January and February, in which 300 civilians were killed, about two-thirds of them in Cairo.

Adli was said to have left his position on Jan. 28 amid heavy police escort. Within hours, Mubarak ordered him to return to the Interior Ministry, where he was placed into custody the following day on charges of manslaughter and damage to public property.

"One of the first decisions [of Wagdy] was to issue the credo: 'The police serve the people,' " Mubarak said.

Adli was said to have been the architect of Egypt's crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood over the last five years. But officials said Adli lost his authority when at least hundreds of security officers refused orders to fire on protesters in such cities as Alexandria and Cairo.

In contrast, Wagdy was said to have ordered security forces and prison authorities to end abuse. At one point, the new interior minister met one detainee, Wael Ghonim, marketing manager for Google and touted as a key promoter of the opposition campaign against Mubarak. Under heavy U.S. pressure, Ghonim, 28, was released on Feb. 7.

"He [Wagdy] talked to me like an adult, not like someone of strength talking to someone weak," Ghonim said in a television interview.

Still, clashes continued between police and protesters. In Helwan, south of Cairo, police shot dead an Egyptian who violated the evening curfew, a killing that sparked massive riots in the town. Another clash between police and civilians was reported in the New Valley Governorate in Upper Egypt, in which dozens of people were said to have been injured.

On Feb. 8, the U.S. administration continued to pressure the Mubarak regime to halt the arrest of demonstrators and journalists. Vice President Joseph Biden telephoned his Egyptian counterpart, Omar Suleiman, and urged him to order the Interior Ministry to immediately free journalists and political activists as well as rescind the emergency law.

"These steps, and a clear policy of no reprisals, are what the broad opposition is calling for and what the government is saying it is prepared to accept," a White House statement said.

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