Egypt protests intensify as Mubarak leaves Cairo

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak arrives in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh as hundreds of thousands of protesters pack squares and march on presidential palaces and the State TV building in Cairo.

Protesters fill Tahrir Square and take positions outside government buildings

Thousands of protesters converged in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, on Friday, continuing to demand that President Hosni Mubarak step down despite his pledge to stay. ((David Common/CBC))

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak arrived in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh as hundreds of thousands of protesters packed squares and marched on presidential palaces and the State TV building in Cairo on Friday.

Mubarak spends a good deal of time in Sharm, about 400 kilometres from Cario, where he has a palace.

Tensions have intensified in Egypt following Mubarak's announcement Thursday night that he would remain in office until September elections.  

Mubarak passed most of his powers to Vice-President Omar Suleiman on Thursday night, rebuffing the demands of demonstrators that he step down immediately.

Egypt's military said Friday that it endorses Mubarak's decision not to resign, which he announced Thursday after widespread speculation that he would announce he was stepping down during a special address to the country. 

The military said in a statement that it supports his plan for a peaceful transfer of power, and for free and fair presidential elections later in the year.

It also promised to end the country's 30-year state of emergency once "the current situation has ended."

Egyptian military members block protesters from President Hosni Mubarak's presidential palace in Cairo on Friday. ((Amr Dalsh/Reuters))
Protesters had demanded a repeal of the law, which allows for the arbitrary arrest and detention of those the military perceives as agitators.

Despite the army's concession, protesters remained furious Friday, swarming outside the presidential palace and streaming by the thousands into Cairo's Tahrir Square.

At least 2,500 protesters chanting slogans like "Go out! Go out! and "Down, down Hosni Mubarak!" were separated from the al-Ouruba palace gate by four army tanks and coils of barbed wire. Army troops at the scene Friday did not prevent more protesters from joining the crowd.

In Tahrir Square, which has been the centre of mass rallies that began on Jan. 25, the crowds were "very, very loud" and "angry," the CBC's David Common said.

Those who would normally have attended Friday prayers at mosques throughout Cairo instead prayed in Tahrir Square, also known as Liberation Square, said Common.

"They are now turning from mild prayer and thought to outright anger," he said. "People are very motivated trying to send the signal to the regime that they aren't going anywhere."

In a show of disrespect, protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square hold their shoes high during an 18th straight day of anti-government demonstrations Friday. ((David Common/CBC))

More than 10,000 tore apart military barricades in front of the towering State Television and Radio building, a pro-Mubarak bastion that has aired constant commentary supporting him and dismissing the protests. They swarmed on the Nile River corniche at the foot of the building, beating drums and chanting, "Leave! Leave! Leave!"

Protesters also blocked people from entering the building, prompting television hosts already inside to apologize to viewers for a lack of on-air guests.

Soldiers and tanks were guarding the street that leads to the TV building, which overlooks the Nile, but were not stopping the protesters from pouring in.

"The employees have been perpetuating lies and haven't been broadcasting the real message, feelings and voice of the Egyptian people," said Mahmoud Ahmed, a 25-year-old graphic designer. "Nobody in Egypt feels like they know what is happening because state television is lying to them."

Other protesters massed outside the cabinet and parliament buildings, both largely empty, several blocks from Tahrir Square.

With files from The Associated Press