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18 days of protest culminate in Mubarak's ouster
 
 
 
 
 
 
12-02-2011
 
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down Friday and handed over power to the military, his nearly three decades of iron rule ended by a groundswell of popular protests that began January 25.
In a somber, one-minute announcement on state television, Vice President Omar Suleiman announced Mubarak's resignation and said the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces will "run the affairs of the country."
As Suleiman spoke, deafening cheers erupted among tens of thousands of Egyptians who thronged the streets of Cairo. It was a moment they had sought throughout long, often tense days of demonstrations -- some of them violent -- that demanded Mubarak's departure.
It was also a moment that many in the Arab world's powerhouse nation had not dared contemplate.
Chants of "Egypt is free!" and "God is great!" rose from the crowds, dizzy in the honeymoon of their success. Some waved Egyptian flags; others honked horns; still others set off fireworks as they savored the scene.
Two major bridges over the Nile River resembled congested parking lots, and partiers packed streets throughout Cairo. The state-run Middle East News Agency said some people had passed out from joy and others had suffered heart attacks.
"It was a sense of liberation for me, for every Egyptian," said opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei. "For the first time, Egypt has a chance to be democratic, to be free, to have a sense of dignity, of freedom. So it's amazing. It's just like something we never experienced in our lifetime."
A source with close connections to Persian Gulf government leaders said Mubarak, 82, had fled to the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, his presidency finished as abruptly as it had started in 1981, when he ascended to power after the assassination of Anwar Sadat.
The repercussions echoed far beyond Tahrir Square as the Swiss government moved Friday to freeze all assets belonging to Mubarak and his family, said Norbert Baerlocher, a spokesman for the Swiss Embassy in Washington.
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Protesters on the streets had expressed concerns that the strongman would attempt to flee the country with looted money.
In a speech to the nation Thursday night, Mubarak had indicated that he was delegating authority to Suleiman but made no mention of resigning, as many protesters had expected. Disappointed crowds calling for his ouster grew in number Friday in Cairo and in other major cities.
By Friday night, the protesters got what they were seeking.
But amid the euphoria, ElBaradei sounded a note of caution. "We have challenges ahead of us," said the Nobel laureate, who some believe could emerge as Egypt's next leader. "I think we need to not worry about retribution. Mubarak needs to go, and we need to look forward."
Wael Ghonim, the Egyptian activist who became a reluctant hero of the revolution, predicted that history books would describe Mubarak as a dictator.
 
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