Mubarak leaves Cairo for Sinai as protests spread
CAIRO (AP) -- Egypt's powerful military tried to defuse outrage over President Hosni Mubarak's refusal to step down, assuring it would guarantee promised reforms. But hundreds of thousands only grew angrier, deluging squares in at least three major cities Friday and marching on presidential palaces and the state TV building, key symbols of the authoritarian regime.
A day after handing most of his powers to his vice president, Mubarak flew to the Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, some 250 miles away from the turmoil. He has a palace there where he often lives and works during the winter.
The army's new message Friday was the latest in a series of unusual moves by Egypt's most powerful institution over the past two days. It gave the strong impression that it was in control of the country's political transition.
Still, their statement, which tacitly consented to Mubarak's plans, was a profound disappointment to protesters who called for the military to step in and oust him completely. Despite the transfer of powers, Mubarak retains his title and could in theory take back his authorities. In his speech Thursday night he spoke as if he was still very much in charge.
Shock 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 5,000, with more flowing in. "Did you pledge your allegiance to the president or the people?" another shouted.
The palace was protected by four tanks and rolls of barbed wire, but soldiers did nothing to stop more people from joining the rally. In fact, they threw biscuits and cookies through the palace gates to protesters, who laughed and joked with them.
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.
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