Mubarak, family leave Cairo…As the military Resists
Al Arabiya television reported on Friday that President Hosni Mubarak and his family had left Cairo to an unknown destination from a military airbase in the suburbs. It did not give a source.
A senior military source contacted by Reuters declined to comment on the report. Al Arabiya had initially reported "news" that Mubarak and his family had left Egypt.
At least two helicopters took off from Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's presidential palace in Cairo on Friday, witnesses said.
Earlier, a ruling party official told Reuters the president was heading to the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
Egypt's powerful military tried to defuse outrage over President Hosni Mubarak's refusal to step down, assuring it would guarantee promised reforms. But hundreds of thousands demanding Mubarak go only grew angrier, deluging squares in cities across the country Friday and marching on presidential palaces and the state TV building, key symbols of the authoritarian regime.
A day after handing most of his powers to his vice president, Mubarak flew to the Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, some 250 miles away from the turmoil. He has a palace there where he often lives and works during the winter. State TV said a presidential statement would be issued soon on Friday/
The army's new message Friday was the second in two days giving the strong impression that Egypt's strongest institution had taken control of the country's political transition, pushing Mubarak aside.
But the mass protest movement now exploding in its 18th day demanded his outright resignation. The military's statement consented to Mubarak's handover of authorities while retaining his post, a profound disappointment to protesters who called for the military to oust him. Despite the transfer of powers, Mubarak retains his post and could in theory take back his authorities, and in his speech Thursday night he spoke as if he was still very much in charge.
Shock that Mubarak did not step down on Thursday turned to rage on Friday, and protests escalated.
Nearly 20,000 demonstrators massed outside the gates of Mubarak's main palace, Oruba, in northern Cairo, including a a fleet of dozens on motorcycles chanting, "Down, down Mubarak." Troops manning four tanks and rolls of barbed wire in front of the gates did nothing to stop the rally. Instead, they threw biscuits and cookies to protesters, who joked with them and cheered when the tanks turned their turret guns away from the crowd.
"The low-ranking officers are telling us indirectly that they are with the people," said Mohamed Bayouni, an accountant among the protesters.
"What are you waiting for?" another protester yelled in the face of an army officer, urging soldiers to rise up against Mubarak.