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Egyptians gather for "march of a million"

Army says it won't fire on peaceful protesters.

Police clashed with hundreds of protesters outside the police force’s stronghold, the interior ministry, on Saturday. An area within a four-block radius of the ministry resembled a war zone, with police gunfire echoing as the two sides battled back and forth for control of the narrow streets leading to the building.

Protesters, armed with rocks, bottles and Molotov cocktails, made several attempts to capture the ministry, which they said symbolized a police force known for its corruption and impunity.

On Monday, the government announced it had appointed a new interior minister, naming Gen. Mahmoud Wagdy to the post. Wagdy formerly headed the Cairo criminal investigations department and also a former head of prisons.

The widespread riots and looting left many Cairenes eager for a return to order on the streets and many began to take control of their own neighborhoods, setting up road blocks and patrols by residents armed with sticks, clubs, knives and even guns.

These neighborhood watches seemed to be getting tenser on Monday, as people wondered where the police had gone.

“This is getting to be a tough job,” said Yasim Gadelhak, 26, a computer engineer. “Since I have to guard these posts, I’m not going to work. It’s time for someone else to take over.”

The sound of gunfire at night has been common throughout the capital over the past several days.

Cherif Barakat, who witnessed the violent clashes near the interior ministry, hid in his downtown apartment most of the weekend, scared to leave with a mob of looters roaming the streets. But echoing many other residents of Cairo, Barakat pointed out the obvious challenges Egypt’s security forces will face when they redeploy.

“I’ve been trembling with fear because of everything happening on this street,” said Barakat, referring to the fighting. “I think we’re all disgusted by the amount of looting going on now. Then again, how safe is it for us if the police are opening fire on our streets?”

More on the protests in Egypt:

Kristof in Egypt: Columnist reports via Twitter, Facebook

US plans charter flights to evacuate Americans from Cairo (VIDEO)

Cairo protest aims to draw one million (VIDEO)

YouTube video showing Juju, 8, lecturing Mubarak goes viral (VIDEO)

Israel allows 800 Egyptian troops into the Sinai (VIDEO)

More about the unrest in the Middle East:

The altered aura of the Arab state Everything you need to know Israel nervous as Mubarak teeters

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/egypt/110131/protests-cairo-army