Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak refused to step down or leave the country and instead said he would hand his powers to his vice president Thursday, remaining president and ensuring regime control over the reform process. Stunned protesters in central Cairo who demand his ouster waved their shoes in contempt and shouted, “Leave, leave, leave.”
The rapidly moving events raised the question of whether a rift had opened between Mubarak and the military command. Hours earlier, a council of the military’s top generals announced it had stepped in to secure the country, and a senior commander announced to protesters in Tahrir Square that all their demands would soon be met, raising cries of victory that Mubarak was on his way out.
After Mubarak’s speech, protest organizers called for the army to take action to oust him, and they vowed increased protests on Friday. Several hundred thousand had packed into Tahrir Square, ecstatic with expectation that Mubarak would announce his resignation in his nighttime address. Instead, they watched in shocked silence as he spoke, slapping their foreheads in anger and disbelief. Some broke into tears.
Around a 1,000 marched on the state television headquarters several blocks away, guarded by the military with barbed wire and tanks. “They are the liars,” the crowd shouted, pointing at the building, chanting, “We won’t leave, they will leave.” More…