Egyptian Protesters Return to Streets, Mubarak Names Vice President
Updated 5:45 p.m. ET | Protesters returned to the streets of Cario and other cities in Egypt Saturday, renewing calls for embattled President Hosni Mubarak to step down.
State television reports that Mubarak has named a vice president for the first time in his 30-year rule, choosing his intelligence chief Omar Suleiman.
Tanks and military vehicles deployed in the Egyptian capital to keep order and guard government buildings. Media reports indicate that some Egyptian troops are intermingling with protesters, letting them climb on their tanks and take photos.
Opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei, who remains under house arrest, called for Mubarak to step down to allow for democratic elections organized by a transitional government, according to an interview with Al Jazeera on Saturday.
As the police force, which has clashed with growing crowds of demonstrators in recent days, pulled back from the streets, looting was spreading in Cairo and other parts of Egypt, prompting some residents to take up arms to protect their property. Gunshots and sirens could be heard around Cairo late Saturday night. According to Al Jazeera:
Cairo neighborhoods are being policed by local residents wielding kitchen knives and hunting rifles, after the military called for civilians to protect their own property.
Some protesters carried signs calling for an end to the looting, which has also become politicized, according to The Washington Post:
Government authorities blamed protesters run amok for the breakdown of law and order. But demonstrators claimed that the ruling National Democratic Party was sending plainclothes loyalists to sow anarchy in a bid to discredit the burgeoning democracy movement and to justify what protesters fear would be a merciless crackdown.
Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch reported: “Two looters were just caught in the Muharram Beyh neighborhood of Alexandria who had police ID cards and were members of an undercover plainclothes force.”
The allegiances of the Egyptian military, police and special security forces are all under close watch as the protests continue for a fifth day. Analysts examined that issue and the frustrations driving the demonstrations in this discussion from Friday’s NewsHour:
The death toll from the uprising is at least 48, medical and security officials told the Associated Press. Some 17 police stations in Cairo have been attacked by protesters.
As Mubarak promised in a televised statement Friday, his cabinet ministers resigned Saturday. But many protesters were not satisfied with the long-time Egyptian leader’s pledges of reform.
“What we want is for Mubarak to leave, not just his government,” Mohammed Mahmoud, a demonstrator in the city’s main Tahrir Square, told the AP Saturday. “We will not stop protesting until he goes.”