Cairo protests Egypt 311.
(photo credit: AP)
CAIRO — Egypt's military announced on national television that it has stepped in to "safeguard the country" on Thursday and assured protesters that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will meet their demands in the strongest indication yet that Egypt's longtime leader has lost power. In Washington, the CIA chief said there was a "strong likelihood" Mubarak will step down Thursday.
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The dramatic announcement showed that the military was taking control after 17 days of protests demanding Mubarak's immediate ouster spiraled out of control.
Gen. Hassan al-Roueini, military commander for the Cairo area, told thousands of protesters in central Tahrir Square, "All your demands will be met today." Some in the crowd held up their hands in V-for-victory signs, shouting "the people want the end of the regime" and "Allahu akbar," or "God is great," a victory cry used by secular and religious people alike.
The military's supreme council was meeting Thursday, without the commander in chief Mubarak, and announced on state TV its "support of the legitimate demands of the people." A spokesman read a statement that the council was in permanent session to explore "what measures and arrangements could be made to safeguard the nation, its achievements and the ambitions of its great people."
The statement was labeled "communique number 1," a phrasing that suggests a military coup.
Footage on state TV showed Defense Minster Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi chairing the meeting of two dozen top stern-faced army officers, seated around a table. At Tantawi's right was military chief of staff Gen. Sami Anan. Not present was Mubarak, the commander in chief and a former air force chief, or his vice president, Omar Suleiman, a former army general and intelligence chief named to his post after the protests erupted Jan. 25.
The head of the ruling party, Hossam Badrawi, told The Associated Press that he expects that Mubarak will "address the people tonight to respond to protesters demands."Protests spiral out of control of authorities
The moves came after protests Thursday increasingly spiraled out of the control
authorities trying to contain the crisis. Labor strikes erupted around
the country in the past two days, state employees revolted against their
directors and workers began joining the anti-Mubarak protesters
centered for the past 17 days in Tahrir Square.
hundreds of lawyers in black robes broke through a police cordon and
marched on one of Mubarak's palaces — the first time protesters had done
so, even though the president was not in the building, Abdeen Palace,
several blocks from Tahrir. Police lined up in front of the palace gates
stepped aside for the marchers.
Tens of thousands were massed in
Tahrir itself, joined by striking doctors who marched in their white
lab coats from a state hospital to the square and lawyers who broke with
their pro-government union to join in.