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Jan 28, 2011 10:24 AM by Bea Karnes

Egypt arrests Nobel winner amid violent clashes

CAIRO (msnbc) - Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei was under house arrest Friday, Egyptian security officials said, after Cairo became a scene of violent chaos with tens of thousands of anti-government protesters clashing with police.

The demonstrations were a major escalation in the ongoing rallies against President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule.

One of the country's leading pro-democracy advocates, ElBaradei, took to the streets for the first time since his return to Egypt on Thursday.

Police used batons to beat some of ElBaradei's supporters, who surrounded him to protect him. They were soaked with water cannons and eventually were forced to take refuge in a mosque, where they were trapped by riot police.

He later attempted to march again with supporters chanting "peaceful, peaceful." However, The Associated Press later reported that ElBaradei was under house arrest.

Demonstrators are demanding 82-year-old Mubarak's ouster and venting their rage at years of government neglect of rampant poverty, unemployment and rising food prices.

The protesters have said they are emboldened by the uprising in Tunisia, another north African Arab nation. Egypt is Washington's closest Arab ally, but Mubarak may be losing U.S. support.

The Obama administration has publicly counseled Mubarak to introduce reforms and refrain from using violence against the protesters.

President Barack Obama said Thursday the anti-government protests filling the streets show the frustrations of Egypt's citizens.

"It is very important that people have mechanisms in order to express their grievances," Obama said.

Obama has requested multiple briefings each day on the situation in the Middle East, the White House said. He had received a memo Friday updating him on the latest in Egypt from National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, NBC News reported.

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