Mubarak quits on 18th day of protests; Egypt is free, chant protesters (Fourth Lead)

Friday, February 11, 2011

CAIRO - Capitulating in the face of determined and angry protests that entered the 18th day Friday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak finally stepped down after more than 30 years in power. “Egypt is free, Egypt is free”, chanted tens of thousands of jubilant protesters, waving banners and placards in downtown Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

The country is to be ruled by the military, Vice President Omar Suleiman announced.

“Hosni Mubarak is stepping down as president of Egypt.. for “the benefit of the republic”, Suleiman said in a breif announcement on state TV.

Mubarak has handed over responsibility for running the nation’s affairs to the higher military council, BBC quoted the state TV as saying.

Mubarak had earlier left Cairo along with his family for the resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh in the Sinai.

As the much-awaited news of Mubarak quitting reached Tahrir Square, tens of thousands of people, who have been campaigning for the last 18 days, erupted in jubilation.

Suleiman’s short statement was received with a roar of approval and by celebratory chanting and flag-waving by the pro-democracy campaigners who attended protests across the country Friday.

The protesters had been gathering in increasing numbers at Tahrir Square since Jan 25 to demand Mubarak’s ouster.

The crowd in Tahrir chanted “We have brought down the regime”, while many were seen crying, cheering and embracing one another.

“Tonight, after all of these weeks of frustration, of violence, of intimidation … today the people of Egypt undoubtedly (feel they) have been heard, not only by the president, but by people all around the world,” Al Jazeera reported.

Pro-democracy activists in the Egyptian capital had marched to the presidential palace and state television buildings Friday, the 18th consecutive day of protests.

At the state television building earlier in the day, thousands had blocked people from entering or leaving, accusing the broadcaster of supporting the current government and of not truthfully reporting on the protests.

“The military has stood aside and people are flooding through (a gap where barbed wire has been moved aside),” Al Jazeera stated.

“A lot of anger (was) generated” after Mubarak’s speech Thursday night, when he repeated his vow to complete his term as president in September, the report added.

Filed under: Politics

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