Friday, February 11, 2011

BREAKING NEWS: Mubarak steps down, army takes over

Vice-President Omar Suleiman makes the announcement
Egypt’s embattled President Hosni Mubarak after a last show of defiance on Thursday has stepped down, Vice-President Omar Suleiman to whom the President's powers have been delgated, announced.

Mr. Mubarak and his family are now at the Red Sea resort city of Sharm-el-Shiekh. State TV has announced that the President would make another appearance on television later on Friday. Huge crowds after Friday prayers began pouring in Cairo’s Tahrir square and other parts of Egypt, not only to protest against Mr. Mubarak’s address, but also to exert pressure on a vacillating military to make up its mind on whether its was siding with the pro-democracy movement.

After Mr. Mubarak’s speech, on state television where he said that he would continue as President till September, a defiant opposition has changed its tactics. More regime symbols were angrily targeted on Friday, with crowds deciding to take their protests directly to the President, by marching towards the heavily guarded Presidential palace. A standoff with the military has commenced there but so far no violence has been reported. Protesters have also in large numbers gathered in Alexandria, outside yet another palace belonging to president. Besides, several hundred people are surrounding the state television building, from where Mr. Mubarak’s address had been broadcast. Disregarding the extra layers of razor wire and heavy military presence, the protesters have successfully blocked people from entering the building.

On Thursday night, crowds at Tahrir Square first anticipating that the President bowing to people’s power would announce that he was stepping down, eventually, taking recourse to a typical Arab insult, held aloft their shoes, facing the President’s televised images, once it became clear that the Mr. Mubarak was not going to meet their expectations. The pro-democracy campaigners are also putting to test the military, which has been issuing mixed signals. On Thursday, the supreme military command had in a communiqué, signaled that it was getting ready for a solid intervention to steer Egypt’s political transition. Many in Tahrir Square had rather optimistically interpreted this as a demonstration of the military’s inclination to mount, as a precursor to a democratic transition, a pro-people coup to force Mr. Mubarak's exit.

But in an about turn, following the president’s address, the military on Friday has issued a statement, largely endorsing Mr. Mubarak’s call. In response to the military’s statement, pro-democracy leader Mohamed Elbaradei wrote on his Twitter page that, “People power’s can't be crushed. We shall prevail. Still hope Army can join.”

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