The military deployment came amid the virtual disappearance of police
and security forces from several Egyptian cities. Opposition sources said
many of the security officers fled or shed their uniforms in wake of the
killing of more than 100 Egyptians and injury of several hundred over the
last 24 hours.
"Plainclothes officers are attacking and looting in some areas of
Cairo," an Egyptian opposition source said.
As of early Jan. 30, the Army, with 450,000 troops, took control of
major intersections and bridges around Cairo, including routes to the
international airport. The military has not been seen in other areas of the
Egyptian capital, where police were replaced by vigilante groups with guns,
knives and sticks.
During several demonstrations, Egyptian soldiers removed their helmets
and embraced protesters. Army units did not intervene as Egyptian protesters
ignored a military curfew, gutted the headquarters of the ruling National
Democratic Party and torched government buildings as well as police
"Demonstrate as much as you like," an Egyptian Army officer told a crowd
in Cairo. "But at night leave the streets to us to stop the thugs."
A major confrontation has been taking place at the Interior Ministry in
Cairo. Over the last day, heavy gunfire from the ministry was said to have
killed at least 10 protesters who tried to storm the compound.
Diplomatic sources said Mubarak, whose family already fled to Britain,
appeared to be paving the way for his imminent departure. On Jan. 29,
Mubarak fired his Cabinet and appointed a new group of ministers, headed by
former Air Force chief Ahmed Shafiq. The sources said Mubarak has lost all
Western support for his regime.
Intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Omar Suleiman was also appointed vice
president, the first time Mubarak named a deputy since he came to power in
1981. Hours later, 19 business jets left Cairo for what was believed to have
been the United Arab Emirates. The passengers were said to have included
industrialists linked to the Mubarak regime.
"This is a last-ditch attempt by Mubarak [to stay in power]," Egyptian
opposition journalist Nuwara Nagab said.