Media in the Middle East is reporting that Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and his family have left Cairo.
Not that he’s stepping down, as the people have been asking. He’s just shook.
Al Arabiya television reported on Friday that President Hosni Mubarak and his family had left Cairo from a military airbase in the suburbs and had travelled to the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
It did not give a source for the series of reports on the movement of the president and his family. Al Arabiya said it had confirmed the arrival of the president and his family in Sharm el-Sheikh.
The Al Arabiya report came as Egypt’s powerful military backed Mubarak’s plan to stay in office until September elections earlier Friday, enraging hundreds of thousands of protesters who deluged the squares of Cairo and Alexandria and marched on presidential palaces and state television – key symbols of the authoritarian regime.
The army’s show of solidarity with the president was a heavy blow to protesters who called on the military to take action to push Mubarak out after he announced Thursday night that he would hand most of his powers to Vice President Omar Suleiman but remain in office.
The Armed Forces Supreme Council, the military’s highest body, depicted itself as the champion of reform in its latest statement. Trying to win the trust of an angry and skeptical population, the army promised to make sure Mubarak lifts hated emergency laws immediately once protests end. Mubarak and Suleiman had only given a vague timetable for ending the law – when security permits.
Still, the profound disappointment that Mubarak did not step down on Thursday turned to rage on Friday and protests escalated.
“What are you waiting for?” one protester yelled in the face of an army officer outside Mubarak’s main palace, Oruba, in northern Cairo, where a crowd of demonstrators grew to more than 2,500. “Did you pledge your allegiance to the president or the people?” another shouted.
It was not known if Mubarak was in the palace, one of at least three in Cairo, or even in the capital. The palace was protected by four tanks and rolls of barbed wire, but soldiers did nothing to stop more people from joining the rally.
The march on the palace were the first by protesters who for nearly three weeks have centered their mass demonstrations in Cairo’s downtown Tahrir Square.
More than 10,000 tore apart military barricades in front of the towering State Television and Radio building, a pro-Mubarak bastion that has aired constant commentary supporting him and dismissing the protests. They swarmed on the Nile River corniche at the foot of the building, beating drums and chanting, Leave! Leave! Leave! They blocked employees from entering, vowing to silence the broadcast.
Soldiers in tanks in front of the building did nothing to stop them, though state TV continued to air.
The unrest in Egypt has already cost 300 people their lives. We hope this isht is almost over.