Saturday, January 29, 2011

Mubarak makes moves as protests convulse Egypt

Cairo, Egypt (CNN) -- President Hosni Mubarak's efforts to redeem his 30-year-rule did little to quell Egyptian discontent Saturday as tens of thousands of demonstrators again defied a curfew to demand change and a new fear of anarchy percolated.

The world's attention fell on central Cairo where the Army was deployed to replace police forces that clashed brutally with demonstrators. But with many Cairo neighborhoods left without any security, Egyptians began to feel the sting of politics cutting into personal safety.

Shops and businesses were looted and abandoned police stations stripped clean of their arsenals.

In one area, residents set up barricades and handed out sticks and kitchen knives as defense measures. Another group of men armed themselves and planned to sit outside all night to guard their houses.

"There have been no police officers on the streets since this morning," Cairo resident Sherief Abdelbaki said. "All the men are trying to protect the ladies, their wives and children."

"We have all become vigilantes ... it's like the Wild West," he said. "Where is the security?"

After days of silence, the embattled Mubarak acted swiftly Saturday. He fired his entire cabinet, then tapped two new leaders to stand by his side.

Mubarak appointed his trusted and powerful intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, as his deputy, the first time the authoritarian regime has seen such a post. He also asked Ahmed Shafik, the civil aviation minister in the cabinet that just stepped down, to form a new government, state-run Nile TV reported. Shafik is a former Air Force officer with strong military connections.

But Egyptians fed up with with what they see as Mubarak's hollow promises for reform were hardly appeased. In a fifth day of protests engulfing the Arab world's most populous nation, people took to the streets, chanting "Down with Mubarak" and burning pictures of the authoritarian leader.

"There is very little in terms of real power that the president still has," CNN's Ben Wedeman said from Cairo. "The army is controlling the street, but politically there is a complete vacuum."

Opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei, who returned home to Cairo to join the demonstrations and was placed under house arrest on Friday, said Saturday that he was disappointed in Mubarak's decision to stay put.


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