Egyptian crisis: How did it happen?

A brief look at conditions in Egypt and how the unrest grew from a peaceful demonstration.
Protesters clash with police in downtown Cairo on Jan. 25 in protests inspired by the revolt that brought down Tunisia's president. ((Mohamed Abd El-Ghany/Reuters) )

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has resigned and handed over power to the military, ousted by a historic 18-day wave of anti-government demonstrations. Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians took part in the protests aimed at forcing the longtime leader out of office.

The unprecedented protests on the streets of Cairo caught the world's attention. Here's a brief look at how the situation in Egypt evolved:

How did the protests start?

Demonstrators were gathered peacefully in  central Cairo on Jan. 25  to demand an end to Mubarak's nearly 30 years in power and protest economic woes in the North African nation. The protests came days after Tunisian leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was forced into exile by demonstrations in his home country.

Uprising in Egypt

How did the violence begin?

As crowds filled Cairo's Tahrir Square — waving Egyptian and Tunisian flags and adopting the same protest chants that have rung out in the streets of Tunis — security personnel changed tactics and the protest turned violent. Police blasted crowds with water cannons and set upon them with batons and tear gas in an attempt to clear demonstrators shouting "Down with Mubarak."

How many people have died?

A policeman was hit in the head with a rock during the first day of protests in Cairo and died later in the hospital, an Interior Ministry official said. Further demonstrations in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez resulted in dozens more deaths, but an especially brutal intensification of violence on Jan. 28 and 29 brought the death toll up sharply.

On Feb. 8,  Human Rights Watch estimated, based on hospital reports, that at least 300 people had been killed over two weeks of unrest, most of them as a result of gunfire and use of excessive force by security forces. About 2,000 have been injured.

What fuelled the protests?

In Egypt, discontent with life in the autocratic, police state has simmered under the surface for years. But there has also been growing discontent over economic woes, poverty, unemployment, corruption and police abuses.

How did the protests in Tunisia influence demonstrations in Egypt?

Even with the long-standing Egyptian discontent, it appears the Tunisian experience was enough to push many young Egyptians into the streets for the first time. "This is the first time I am protesting, but we have been a cowardly nation. We have to finally say no," said 24-year-old Ismail Syed, a hotel worker who struggles to live on a salary of roughly $50 a month.

What role has social media played in the protests?

Social media tools, such as Twitter and Facebook, have been used extensively to rally support for the protesters. Egyptian organizers had been using Twitter to send out instructions to people on where to gather, until the government blocked the service on Jan. 25 in the late afternoon, local time. Cellphone services in Egypt were restored on Jan. 28 after a government-ordered communications blackout was imposed in "selected areas" the day before in an apparent bid to stop protesters from co-ordinating demonstrations. However, internet service appeared to remain blocked.

With files from The Associated Press