Demonstrations against President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year reign have raged since Tuesday in Cairo, Suez and Alexandria, but the military only became directly involved Friday.
The ruling party headquarters in Cairo was up in flames apparently set by enraged protesters demanding Mubarak's ouster; the museum is situated directly next to the party headquarters, raising concerns that the fire and looting might threaten the home of so many pharaonic antiquities.
"The museum contains a huge quantity of ancient antiquities, including the contents of the tomb of Tutankhamun that was discovered by Howard Carter in 1922. The gold death mask is one of the most spectacular pieces," Reuters reports.
The sustained and intensifying demonstrations raised serious questions about whether Mubarak can keep his grip on power.
In the strongest sign yet that the violent suppression of the largest anti-government protests in decades is costing Egypt the support of its key ally in Washington, the U.S. demanded an end to the crackdown and an administration official saidbased on unfolding events.
In one of many astonishing scenes Friday, thousands of anti-government protesters wielding rocks, glass and sticks chased hundreds of riot police away from the main square in downtown Cairo and several of the policemen stripped off their uniforms and badges and joined the demonstrators.
At least one protestor was killed Friday, bringing the death toll of police and protestors to eight since clashes began throughout the country on Tuesday. There are some reports of additional police and protestors having been killed Friday as well.
Internet and cell phones were blocked throughout the country early in the morning, reports eyewitness Alex Ortiz. As a result, word of mouth has brought people of all ages and walks of life into the streets to protest Mubarak's rule.
Data services were disrupted across Egypt as authorities used extreme measures to try and hamper the protesters from organizing the type of mass rallies that have been seen all week - an unprecedented outpouring of public anger against President Hosni Mubarak, who has led the nation for more than 30 years.
CNET.com reports the Internet-monitoring firm Renesys observed "the virtually simultaneous withdrawal of all routes to Egyptian networks in the Internet's global routing table."
Egyptians outside the country were posting updates on Twitter after getting information in voice calls from people inside the country. Many urged their friends to keep up the flow of information over the phones.
The anger behind this uprising is about many things: abuse, corruption and freedom of expression, but above all, it's about unemployment and the price of food, which has skyrocketed in a country where almost half the population lives on less than $2 a day, CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports from Cairo.
There were also clashes in several other major Egyptian cities, including the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, Minya, Suez and Assiut south of Cairo, and al-Arish in the Sinai Peninsula.