Soldiers guard tourist sites but do not move against the protesters
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jan 30, 2011
CAIRO » With protests raging, Egypt's president named his intelligence chief yesterday as his first-ever vice president, setting the stage for a successor as chaos engulfed the capital. Soldiers stood by — a few even joining the demonstrators — and the death toll from five days of anti-government fury rose sharply to 74.
Yesterday's fast-moving developments across the North African nation marked a sharp turning point in President Hosni Mubarak's three-decade rule of Egypt.
Residents and shopkeepers in affluent neighborhoods boarded up their houses and stores against looters, who roamed the streets with knives and sticks, stealing what they could and destroying cars, windows and street signs. Gunfire rang out in some neighborhoods.
Tanks and armored personnel carriers fanned out across the city of 18 million, guarding key government buildings and major tourist and archaeological sites. Among those singled out for special protection was the Egyptian Museum, home to some of the country's most treasured antiquities, and the Cabinet building. The military closed the pyramids on the outskirts of Cairo — Egypt's premier tourist site.
ISLE RESIDENTS AMONG GROUP SEEKING EXITCHICAGO » Chicago TV travel show host Regina Fraser said yes-terday her tour group hoped to cut short their trip to Egypt amid the political turmoil.
Fraser, 68, co-hosts the PBS-syndicated show "Grannie on Safari." Her group, which includes tourists from Hawaii, arrived Wednesday in Egypt and was to leave Friday, but she said she hopes they can depart earlier.
But soldiers made no moves against protesters, even after a curfew came and went and the crowds swelled in the streets, demanding an end to Mubarak's rule and no handoff to the son he had been grooming to succeed him.
"This is the revolution of people of all walks of life," read a black graffito scrolled on one army tank in Tahrir Square. "Mubarak, take your son and leave," it said.
Thousands of protesters defied the curfew for the second night, standing their ground in the main Tahrir Square in a resounding rejection of Mubarak's attempt to hang on to power with promises of reform and a new government.
Police protecting the Interior Ministry near the site opened fire at a funeral procession for a dead protester, possibly because it came too close to the force. Clashes broke out and at least two people were killed.
A 43-year-old teacher protesting in the port city of Alexandria said the appointment of the president's intelligence chief and longtime confidant, Omar Suleiman, as vice president did not satisfy the demonstrators.
"If he is appointed by Mubarak, then he is just one more member of the gang."
OTHER DEVELOPMENTS YESTERDAY» In addition to announcing Omar Suleiman as vice president, President Hosni Mubarak also named Ahmed Shafiq as prime minister. Shafiq is outgoing civil aviation minister and a former air force officer.
» Would-be looters broke into Cairo's famed Egyptian Museum, ripping the heads off two mummies and damaging about 10 small artifacts before being caught and detained by army soldiers.
» Israel remained silent as anti-government unrest worsened in Egypt, but in a clear reflection of concern, dozens of Israelis were whisked out of Egypt on an emergency flight. Thousands of other international passengers were stranded at Cairo's airport as flights were canceled or delayed.
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Mubarak appointed Suleiman shortly after the U.S. said he needed to take concrete action to achieve "real reform." Suleiman is well known and respected by American officials.
As the army presence expanded yesterday in Cairo, police largely disappeared from the streets — possibly because their presence seemed only to fuel protesters' anger. Egyptian police are hated for their brutality.
There were no clashes reported between protesters and the military at all, and many in the crowds showered soldiers with affection.
Like Mubarak, Suleiman has a military background. The powerful military has provided Egypt with its four presidents since the monarchy was toppled nearly 60 years ago.
Suleiman is widely seen as a central regime figure, a position that protesters were likely to view with suspicion.