February 4, 2011 / 3:44 PM / 9 years ago

Al Jazeera says Cairo office destroyed by "thugs"

DUBAI (Reuters) - The Qatar-based satellite channel Al Jazeera said on Friday that its office in Egypt’s capital Cairo had been burned and destroyed by “gangs of thugs.”

The news channel, ordered by Egyptian authorities earlier this week to stop operations in the country, accused the government or its supporters of trying to thwart its coverage of political unrest in Egypt.

“The Al Jazeera Network has reported that its office in Cairo has been stormed by gangs of thugs. The office has been burned along with the equipment inside it,” the channel said in a statement.

“It appears to be the latest attempt by the Egyptian regime or its supporters to hinder Al Jazeera’s coverage of events in the country.”

The channel said later on Friday that its Cairo bureau chief Abdelfattah Fayed and another journalist had been detained by police.

On January 30, the Egyptian government said it had suspended Al Jazeera’s operations, accusing it of false and exaggerated reporting of the unrest, cancelling its licenses and the accreditation of all staff.

But Al Jazeera continues to operate in Egypt and can be seen by ordinary Egyptians via satellite feeds. It is also being aired on a giant screen in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, epicenter of the popular revolt against President Hosni Mubarak.

On Thursday, the news channel said three of its journalists were released after being detained by Egyptian authorities while covering massive street protests.

Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets for the past days in Egypt demanding an end to Mubarak’s authoritarian 30-year rule, in protests that have sent shock waves through the Arab world.

Al Jazeera’s coverage of Egypt’s upheaval has been watched throughout the Middle East and criticized by Mubarak’s faithful.

Launched in Qatar in 1996, Al Jazeera has more than 400 reporters in over 60 countries, according to its website.

On Thursday, the United States and Britain condemned the intimidation of foreign reporters covering protests against Mubarak and said the Egyptian government must not target journalists.

Writing by Rania El Gamal; Editing by Jon Hemming

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