Vice President Omar Suleiman said a military council would run the affairs of the Arab world’s most populous nation. A free and fair presidential election has been promised for September.
A speaker made the announcement in Cairo’s Tahrir Square where hundreds of thousands broke down in tears, celebrated and hugged each other chanting: “The people have brought down the regime.” Others shouted: “Allahu Akbar (God is great).
The 82-year-old Mubarak’s downfall after 18 days of unprecedented mass protests was a momentous victory for people power and was sure to rock autocrats throughout the Arab world and beyond.
Egypt’s powerful military gave guarantees earlier on Friday that promised democratic reforms would be carried out but angry protesters intensified an uprising against Mubarak, marching on the presidential palace and the state television tower.
It was an effort by the army to defuse the revolt but, in disregarding protesters’ key demand for Mubarak’s ouster now, it failed to calm the turmoil that has disrupted the economy and rattled the entire Middle East.
The military’s intervention was not enough.
The tumult over Mubarak’s refusal to resign had tested the loyalties of the armed forces, which had to choose whether to protect their supreme commander or ditch him.
The sharpening confrontation had raised fear of uncontrolled violence in the most populous Arab nation, a key U.S. ally in an oil-rich region where the chance of chaos spreading to other long stable but repressive states troubles the West.
Washington has called for a prompt democratic transition to restore stability in Egypt, a rare Arab state no longer hostile to Israel, guardian of the Suez Canal linking Europe and Asia and a major force against militant Islam in the region.
The army statement noted that Mubarak had handed powers to govern the country of 80 million people to his deputy the previous day — perhaps signalling that this should satisfy demonstrators, reformists and opposition figures.
“This is not our demand,” one protester said, after relaying the contents of the army statement to the crowd in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square. “We have one demand, that Mubarak step down.” He has said he will stay until September elections.
The Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist opposition group, urged protesters to keep up mass nationwide street protests, describing Mubarak’s concessions as a trick to stay in power.