Image: Clashes outside the National Museum in Cairo
Yannis Behrakis  /  Reuters
Pro-government protesters at left clash with anti-government protesters outside the National Museum near Tahrir Square in Cairo early Thursday. Opponents and supporters of Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak fought with fists, stones and clubs in Cairo.
NBC, and news services
updated 2/3/2011 2:21:48 AM ET 2011-02-03T07:21:48

Anti-government protesters continued to face off against supporters of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak Thursday morning after a night of heavy gunfire resounding around Cairo's Tahrir Square left at least three dead, according to reports from the nation's capital.

While gunfire settled down shortly after dawn, demonstrators continued throwing rocks and molotov cocktails at each other over makeshift shields set up across the square.

Egypt's health minister said Thursday morning that five people were killed in violence overnight in Tahrir Square, sparked when supporters of Mubarak charged anti-government protesters.

"Most of the casualties were the result of stone throwing and attacks with metal rods and sticks," Health Minister Ahmed Samih Farid told state television by phone.

"The real real casualties taken to hospital were 836, of which 86 are still in hospital and there are five dead," he said.

Automatic weapons fire and powerful single shots erupted around 4 a.m. local time (9 p.m. ET Wednesday) and continued for more than two hours.

Hundreds of anti-government protesters and Mubarak supporters were reportedly making their way to Tahrir Square for the 10th day of demonstrations and setting up the potential for more violent clashes Thursday morning.

The Egyptian army detained some protesters, but it was not sure from which side they came, Al Arabiya television reported without giving numbers.

Late Wednesday, the U.S. State Department issued a statement telling any Americans remaining in Egypt who wish to leave on a government flight to "report to airport immediately" after curfew and that "further delay is not advisable." It said government flights after Thursday "are unlikely."

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The heavy gunfire came hours after Mubarak supporters charged into Cairo's central square on horses and camels brandishing whips while others rained firebombs from rooftops. It appeared to be an orchestrated assault against protesters trying to topple Egypt's leader of 30 years.

"It's really a battlefield," a witness who gave her name as Mona told Al-Jazeera. She said she saw a protester shot in the head. But she said the protesters would not give up. "We are not leaving this place until Mubarak leaves."

NBC News' Brian Williams and Richard Engel, reporting live on msnbc's "The Rachel Maddow Show" and "The Ed Show" from a balcony overlooking Tahrir Square, described frequent gunfire around the square and the smell of tear gas early Thursday.

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    2. 5-5:14 a.m.: Deadly pre-dawn violence
    3. 5:14-5:30 a.m.: Who has high ground?
    4. 5:30-5:45 a.m.: 'Lots of gunfire'
    5. 5:45-6 a.m.: Downtown Cairo in chaos

They described anti-government protesters and Mubarak supporters chasing and battling each other on the October Bridge and the periphery of Tahrir Square.

Army tanks laid down smoke screens between the sides.

One protester was caught in a firebomb and rolled in an attempt to put out the flames. It was unclear whose side the person was on.

Engel described the scene as a man was dragged from a passing truck and severely beaten. The two sides battled for an overpass overlooking the square with rocks and firebombs before dispersing and then regrouping.

Williams reported that tracer rounds were fired into a nearby building.

As dawn neared, the sound of gunfire diminished.

Video: Battle for Tahrir Square rages through the night (on this page)

Paid thugs, plainclothes police
The protesters accused Mubarak's regime of unleashing a force of paid thugs and plainclothes police to crush their unprecedented nine-day-old movement, a day after the 82-year-old president refused to step down. They showed off police ID badges they said were wrested from their attackers. Some government workers said their employers ordered them into the streets.

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Mustafa el-Fiqqi, a top official from the ruling National Democratic Party, told The Associated Press that businessmen connected to the ruling party were responsible for the clashes earlier in the day. But Egypt's Interior Ministry earlier denied accusations by anti-government protesters that plainclothes police were involved.

The notion that the state may have coordinated violence against protesters, who had kept a peaceful vigil in Tahrir Square for five days, prompted a sharp rebuke from the Obama administration.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Vice President Omar Suleiman to urge that the Egyptian hold accountable those who were responsible for violent acts," the State Department said in a statement.

"If any of the violence is instigated by the government, it should stop immediately," said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

The clashes marked a dangerous new phase in Egypt's upheaval: the first significant violence between government supporters and opponents. The crisis took a sharp turn for the worse almost immediately after Mubarak rejected the calls for him to give up power or leave the country, stubbornly proclaiming he would die on Egyptian soil.

"After our revolution, they want to send people here to ruin it for us," said Ahmed Abdullah, a 47-year-old lawyer in the square. "Why do they want us to be at each other's throats, with the whole world watching us?"

Dr. Mona Mina, a physician at an emergency clinic set up at the scene, told Reuters more than 1,500 people were injured.

Dr. Hatem Aly, with the Gamaet Ein al-Shams hospital in Cairo, said the majority of the wounded were anti-Mubarak protesters. He said the injuries ranged from minor cuts and bruises to serious, life-threatening wounds. Some suffered burns from exploding Molotov cocktails; others were stabbed by knives or swords used by pro-Mubarak protesters, he said.

Journalists beaten, injured
Several foreign journalists were among the wounded, according to media reports.

Al Arabiya, a Dubai-based Arabic-language TV news channel, reported one of its correspondents went missing after being confronted by pro-Mubarak supporters and was found later in a hospital severely beaten.

CNN's Anderson Cooper said he and his production crew were kicked and punched by pro-Mubarak demonstrators. Cooper said no one was seriously hurt.

The Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet said two of its reporters were attacked and held for several hours by Egyptian soldiers who accused them of being spies for Israel.

Some of the worst street battles raged near the famed Egyptian Museum at the edge of the square. Pro-government rioters blanketed the rooftops of nearby buildings and hurled bricks and firebombs onto the crowd below — in the process setting a tree ablaze inside the museum grounds. Plainclothes police at the building entrances prevented anti-Mubarak protesters from storming up to stop them.

The two sides pummeled each other with chunks of concrete and bottles at each of the six entrances to the sprawling plaza, where the 10,000 anti-Mubarak protesters tried to fend off the more than 3,000 attackers who besieged them. Some on the pro-government side waved machetes, while the square's defenders filled the air with a ringing battlefield din by banging metal fences with sticks.

Story: Who are the pro-Mubarak protesters?

In one almost medieval scene, a contingent of pro-Mubarak forces on horseback and camels rushed into the anti-Mubarak crowds, trampling several and swinging whips and sticks. Protesters dragged some from their mounts, throwing them to the ground and beating their faces bloody. The horses and camels appeared to be ones used by the many promoters around Cairo who sell rides for tourists.

Dozens of men and women pried up the pieces of the pavement with bars and ferried the piles of ammunition in canvas sheets to their allies at the front. Others directed fighters to streets needing reinforcements. Entrances to a subway station under the square were turned into impromptu prisons, with seized attackers tied up and held at the bottom of the stairs.

Image: Supporters of President Hosni Mubarak, some riding camels, march in Cairo
Amr Nabil  /  AP
Supporters of President Hosni Mubarak, including some riding horses and camels and wielding whips, march towards anti-Mubarak protesters on Wednesday.

Some protesters wept and prayed in the square where only a day before they had held a joyous, peaceful rally of a quarter-million, the largest demonstration so far.

Protesters 'have conveyed their message'
The scenes of mayhem were certain to add to the fear that is already running high in this capital of 18 million people after a weekend of looting and lawlessness and the escape of thousands of prisoners from jails in the chaos.

The military, which has stayed on the sidelines during a week of mostly peaceful protests, repeatedly broadcast a message on state television Wednesday night warning people to evacuate, saying that "violent groups" intended to burn down the square, Al-Jazeera English reported.

Suleiman, a former intelligence chief and army officer Omar Suleiman, urged protesters on both sides to go home.

"The participants in these demonstrations had conveyed their message, both those demanding reform and those who came out in support of President Hosni Mubarak," he said, according to the MENA state news agency.

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The clashes erupted the day after Mubarak went on national television and said he would not seek another term but rejected protesters' demands he step down immediately.

The anti-government uprising broke out Jan. 25 as public frustration with corruption, oppression and economic hardship under Mubarak boiled over.

Rep. Sen. John McCain said Mubarak should go. "Regrettably the time has come 4 Pres. Mubarak 2 step down & relinquish power. It's in the best interest of Egypt, its people & its military," he tweeted.

NBC News, Reuters, The Associated Press and staff contributed to this report.

Video: Battle for Tahrir Square rages through the night

  1. Transcript of: Battle for Tahrir Square rages through the night

    RON ALLEN, NBC NEWS (voice-over): supporters of President Mubarak . They , blaming the foreign media for not telling their side of the story. "The president should never step down," one of them screamed. We turned off our camera and fled.

    MADDOW: NBC 's Ron Allen reporting from Alexandria today. Reporters on the ground in Egypt found themselves under attack today. Joining us now live from Cairo is NBC chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel . Richard joins us now by a somewhat dodgy satellite connection. But, Richard , we can see you. What can you tell us you're seeing and hearing right now in Cairo ?

    ENGEL: You can hear much more gunfire going on right now. There's a developing situation . The protesters who've been calling on President Mubarak to step down who are in the center of Tahrir Square appear to be winning if not have won this incredible standoff here. And as the pro- Mubarak supporters are leaving, and we've been watching them run away from the scene. They have retreated back to positions and have been firing, some firing in the air; some firing apparently toward the crowd of protesters. They are -- they were chased as one stage by the protesters. But if you look down here, there is a large bridge. The 6th of October Bridge , and you can see people running across it. These people who are running are generally pro- Mubarak supporters. They were covering that bridge, but it was several thousand of them just a few minutes ago. They have all just run in this direction. Some retreating back and that gunfire which are now mixed with fireworks that you can hear has been the result of that. This, for the protesters, is the moment that they have been waiting for, the moment they have been fighting for all day, Rachel .

    MADDOW: This is live imagery that you are seeing right now from Cairo . This is not on tape. This has not happened earlier. Richard , as you are looking at the scene right now, when you say it looks like the anti- Mubarak protesters have won, tactically, how are they winning -- by greater numbers, by the tactics that they're using? How is this fight actually playing out?

    ENGEL: Now, as you can see people running now, making a counter attack, a counter charge. The bridge has been the high ground in this. And we're really talking about old fashioned battle tactics here. The pro- Mubarak supporters were lined up on this elevated highway. And they were taking this position and then throwing down Molotov cocktails into the crowd. Now, originally, the pro- Mubarak protesters were in much greater numbers and they had squeezed all of the demonstrators who want Mubarak to step down deep into Tahrir Square . At one stage, the demonstrators were even completely surrounded with all of the exits and entrances to Tahrir Square blocked off. Slowly, over the last several hours, the protesters are then pushing out, moving their barricades further and further to where we are broadcasting right now.

    And just in the last few minutes, they crossed a threshold and got evidently too close and the pro- Mubarak supporters on this bridge pulled out and are now once again running away from the scene. As we're watching this, as we were talking, is not being filmed by the camera, a man who was hit by a Molotov cocktail , he fell to the ground. He was on fire. Other supporters managed to put him out. This situation clearly is not over. But it may have turned a corner, at least for the night. The pro- Mubarak supporters will likely get more reinforcement and they also seem to be very angry that they were forced to pull back, which is why I think, Rachel , we're hearing so much gunfire right now.

    MADDOW: Richard , in terms of that gunfire , it sounds, at least from here, like automatic weapons fire. Are we at a situation here where this battle is between professionals versus amateurs where we got actual security forces acting as the pro- Mubarak side and it's civilians who are acting as the anti- Mubarak side? Is that too simple?

    ENGEL: The pro- Mubarak supporters, as has been widely reported, we were just talking about are believed to be thugs, gangs of orchestrated group that was gathered together by the government to break up these protests. Some of them would be from the police forces . Others would not be. They wouldn't necessarily have a high degree of military training . They would just like a rent-a-mob. And it appears that some of them were clearly armed and as they pull back from this demonstration, they are using their weapon. The protesters don't seem to be scattering at this stage. So, it would be premature to say that the demonstrators are firing into the crowds. We're not seeing bodies and people dropping. But there was a lot of gunfire as these pro- Mubarak supporters were forced back to take a more -- an even more defensive position .

    MADDOW: Richard , are you able to see tanks or any other sign of the military being involved, getting in between these two sides, or having any role in this battle ?

    ENGEL: That is something we've been watching closely. We're just looking over my shoulder , there is a tank here. It has not moved. It has not turned its turret. In fact, some of the pro- Mubarak demonstrators were running behind it and appeared to be taking position behind it to fire in the direction of the protesters. The tanks are not moving between the protesters. I think you can see a tank right now. I stand corrected. It has now just turned on its engine. This could be another -- yet another turning point if that tank moves to change the situation . It is just turning on the engine now. It is not moving. But you could see people running in the direction of the tank, running for shelter, running for safety, trying to leave this area. The protesters, however, are still back behind the Egyptian museum . And you can see the main building here in the center of Tahrir Square in front of us is t he Egyptian Museum . There have been many fires over the course of the day that have been set right by it. The museum now appears to be the main blocking point that could be saving a lot of lives because most of the gunfire we've been hearing has been from one side from the museum, of the museum, by the retreating pro-government demonstrators, while the targets apparently, the protesters, are on the backside of the museum.

    MADDOW: Richard , as you know, the whole world is watching. And the rest of the worlds is trying to figure out at this time whether or not this is protesters versus protesters. Whether or not this constitutes state violence against their own citizens. I don't want to ask you to report beyond what you can tell. But you've been in a lot of war zones. Can you tell what type of weaponry is being fired? Are these -- is this the kind of weaponry that would be in civilian hands? Is this large caliber stuff that would be military grade or police grade stuff? Can you tell from tactics who is who?

    ENGEL: The weapons are fairly common. They appear to be -- and this tank is creating a smoke screen to get people cover as it heads toward a different position . I'm not sure if they are going to go all the way into Tahrir Square . But it does seem to be taking up a position to prevent what is a rapidly escalating situation . It could be doing what we all seem to be one of the more responsible things right now, which would be to create a barrier, albeit one of smoke between the demonstrators and protesters. That is what, in fact, is going on, creating this line of smoke in order to allow people to escape, allow people to have some cover. This would be the first action we've seen all day of the army to try and intervene and prevent Egyptians from attacking other Egyptians. As this situation unveils -- develops and involves much, much more gunfire than we've seen really throughout the course of the entire day.

    MADDOW: Richard , are there other tanks nearby? Is this tank on its own?

    ENGEL: There are other tanks. For now, this tank, which clearly is setting some sort of smokescreen, is the only one that seems to be moving right now. There does not appear to be a coordinated military action . And the tank has now passed the Tahrir Square . So, it is not going in. It just seems to have helped to allow the people who are the pro- Mubarak demonstrators to retreat and exit the area. To look down on the bridge now through the smoke , there is nobody down there. That area was full with just as we were talking, it was emptying out with people who are throwing Molotov cocktails at the protesters retreated and there was this. It may have been the exchange of fire. I think would be unfair to say that only the pro- Mubarak demonstrators who are firing into Tahrir . I don't know if there are some armed people in Tahrir Square among the protesters as well.

    MADDOW: In terms of what the tank just did, Richard , can you smell -- does the smoke have a chemical smell or does it seem like it just something that was put up as a visible smoke screen ? I'm wondering if it's some sort of tear gas or crowd control .

    ENGEL: No, no, it's not tear gas . This is the kind of smoke -- military used it all the time. It can be of any color. You pop smoke in order to do what they just did, soldiers sometimes will carry small canisters of smoke on their uniform in order to leave an area, they'll pop smoke , drop it, create a cover and leave and it doesn't .

    MADDOW: What's that -- what's that we're hearing?

    ENGEL: That appears to be more gunfire . As this situation is scattering now, the protesters are staying concentrated right in the middle. Initially, we were hearing gunfire to the west, and the Nile is to my west. And that's where the initial gunfire was. As we saw that tank started out, now, we're hearing much more gunfire in a position where I cannot see because the building is in the way, but to the east, deeper into Cairo , away from the Nile . And we are hearing similar kinds of things, gunfire as the -- from the positions where the pro- Mubarak supporters pulled back apparently in retreat.

    MADDOW: Richard , in terms of Tahrir Square and what's going in that actual sort of plaza right now, are there still a lot of people there staying out overnight? Are there still wounded people in the square ? What's the scene there? What we're seeing right now is happening around the square . But what's happening inside there?

    ENGEL: Well, I can tell you what's happening right now because we are high up as you can tell from the perspective here. I can hear clearly they are shouting, "Erhal, Erhal." That has been the chant of this demonstration so far. It means "Leave, leave." And it is a message, a word that is directly directed only at one person, President Mubarak . It is their victory cry right now. They have been shouting this all day. But, now, as this situation happened, and the people who attacked them earlier have left and once again resorting to that battle cry , that cheer, " Erhal ," "Leave, leave, President Mubarak , leave."

    MADDOW: We can't hear the exact words that we're using, but we can hear how loud it is. It makes me feel like, despite the hour there, despite being the middle of the night and a predawn hours, there's a huge number of people there. Are people not going home ?

    ENGEL: They don't seem to be -- they don't seem to be going home . They have -- they are afraid if they go home and leave, they won't be able to come back. They have been working in shifts according to organizers that we've spoken to. So, people who now that they have a little bit more freedom of moving, people who are in the center would take somewhat of a break, get a little food, get a little water and then come back and replace. They are organizing themselves. They have been here now for many hours and have been able to develop something of a sustainable pattern. Many of the protests say they will stay in the morning. They also are concerned that perhaps in the next few hours, perhaps the next few minutes, they think when sunrise comes, the government supporters will come back once again.

    MADDOW: Richard , from what you saw with that tank, everybody is wondering what's going to happen with the military. Whether they are going to stay in a sort of relatively passive position , passive but visible position they have been in, or whether they will actually intervene actively to stop when violence breaks out. Do you feel differently about that than you did earlier today, keeping in mind that you're hearing a lot of gunfire right now?

    ENGEL: Well, if this continues, the army will have no choice but to intervene. This, the army could accept open gun battles in the main square in Cairo . Molotov cocktails , the army was obviously in a very difficult position .

    And they were shouting or were shouting. We could hear soldiers on appealing to both sides to stop. They were saying, for the sake of Egypt , stop this. Go home. We don't need this. Egypt is better than this.

    So, the army has been making these verbal appeals all day. This was the first physical intervention that we've seen sending the smokescreen right through to the center . If these gun battles continue, the crack of high velocity rifles. These are automatic rifles that are being fired. Semi automatic rifle , to the rifles, I know the sound very well. If this continues with military grade weapons happening, firing at the center of Cairo for much longer, the army will absolutely have no choice but to intervene.

    MADDOW: Richard , just to be clear what you are experiencing right now, is there any indication that the anti- Mubarak forces, the anti- government forces, are shooting back, or that they are also armed with guns?

    ENGEL: I don't think I'm in a position to answer that. We have heard crackling of gunfire . It appears to be coming from the west and from the northeast. These are areas that have been taken over by supporters of President Mubarak . We have the supporters where they went in retreat. If there are -- I don't know who is firing the weapons and whether they are protesters who are also firing. But logic would dictate the gunfire is coming from the areas where the pro- Mubarak supporters have been concentrating.

    MADDOW: OK. Richard , let me also just ask you -- in terms of your job as a reporter right now, has it changed in the last 24 hours ? Have you been targeted? And what do you think that's all about?

    ENGEL: I think we've definitely been targeted. There was a clear order today by whoever sent this organized group of demonstrators a mob, a group of thugs, however you want to describe them. The people who came out in the streets en masse, at the same time, with the same objective, which is to break up the protest in the center of Tahrir . They were very angry with reporters and were looking for us. They were hunting down reporters, and we were swarmed every foreign journalist was swarmed almost simultaneously. It happened just around 2:00. And journalists who weren't able to retreat back into their hotels well, some of them had very bad experiences. There are reporters are still missing tonight. There was a reporter was stabbed today. There was a reporter was detained for a long period of time. So this was clearly not just popular anger against journalists. Many cameras were taken. Cameras were smashed. There was a message, "If you see a reporter with a camera, either harass them, take his camera. Don't let them film."

    MADDOW: Richard , let me we are going to let you get to a safer position or better position if you need to. But I just want to in summing up what you have seen in this sort of battle in Tahrir Square tonight with this tank intervening in a way we have not seen, what do you think this means for the overall of the protests and what seems to be a revolution?

    ENGEL: I think it means right now that we are in a stage of conflict here. And if this escalates and continues when more reinforcements from the pro- Mubarak camp arrive, it is no longer Molotov cocktails which can kill. And it is no longer shouts and stones, but can mean gunfire in the center of Tahrir . I think things will escalate quickly and dramatically. There will be full intervention. There will be too much pressure on the army not to allow this country to disintegrate even further.

    MADDOW: Richard Engel , NBC chief foreign correspondent, reporting tonight remarkably from just above this battle of Tahrir Square which doesn't sound over, although it seems to have taken a dramatic turn. Richard , stay in touch with us and we'll see you soon.

    ENGEL: They are cheering now, the army. So I think people here did appreciate what the army did. And they are appearing they're saying the army and the people, hand-in-hand. And that is also a common theme that we heard really from both sides of this protest. They don't want the army's image to be sullied by this. I think a lot of people would like the army to step in and stop this.

    MADDOW: Given that we have just seen the army step in, in the first way that we have seen, we are going to try to get some official U.S. Government response to what we just broadcast. Richard , thank you. We'll see you soon. You're watching live coverage on MSNBC . What you just saw was not tape. It happened live as we were talking with Richard in Cairo . We will be right back.

Photos: Farewell Friday

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  1. Anti-government protesters celebrate inside Tahrir Square after the announcement of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's resignation in Cairo on Feb. 11. (Dylan Martinez / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Egyptians set off fireworks as they celebrate in Cairo’s Tahrir Square after President Mubarak resigned and handed power to the military. (Khalil Hamra / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. President Barack Obama makes a statement on the resignation of Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak in the Grand Foyer at the White House in Washington D.C. (Carolyn Kaster / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Egyptians celebrate in Tahrir Square after President Hosni Mubarak resigned and handed power to the military on Friday. Egypt exploded with joy, tears, and relief after pro-democracy protesters brought down President Hosni Mubarak with a momentous march on his palaces and state TV. Mubarak, who until the end seemed unable to grasp the depth of resentment over his three decades of authoritarian rule, finally resigned Friday. (Khalil Hamra / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Protesters walk over a barricade after it was taken down to allow free entry to hundreds of thousands of Egyptians in Tahrir Square in Cairo February 11, 2011. A furious wave of protest finally swept Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak from power, sending a warning to autocrats across the Arab world and beyond. (Yannis Behrakis / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. A spokesman for Egypt's higher military council reads a statement titled “Communiqué No. 3” in this video still on Friday. Egypt's higher military council said it would announce measures for a transitional phase after President Hosni Mubarak stepped down. (Reuters Tv / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Egyptian celebrates in Cairo after the announcement of President Mubarak's resignation. (Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Protesters celebrate inside Tahrir Square after the announcement of Mubarak's resignation in Cairo on Friday. A furious wave of protest finally swept Mubarak from power after 30 years of one-man rule, sparking jubilation in the streets. (Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. An Egyptian reacts in the street after President Hosni Mubarak resigned and handed power to the military in Cairo, Egypt, on Friday, Feb. 11. (Amr Nabil / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Thousands of Egyptian anti-government protesters celebrate inside Tahrir Square after the announcement of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's resignation on Friday. (Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Egyptian soldiers celebrate with anti-government protesters in Tahrir Square on Friday. Cairo's streets exploded in joy when Mubarak stepped down after three-decades of autocratic rule and handed power to a junta of senior military commanders. (Marco Longari / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Anti-government protesters celebrate inside Tahrir Square after the announcement of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's resignation in Cairo on Friday. (Dylan Martinez / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Egyptians celebrate the news of Mubarak's resignation in Tahrir Square on Friday. (Tara Todras-whitehill / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. An Egyptian woman cries as she celebrates the news of the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, who handed control of the country to the military, Friday night, in Tahrir Square, Cairo. (Tara Todras-whitehill / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Egyptian anti-government protesters celebrate minutes after the announcement on television of the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday. Vice President Omar Suleiman announced that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had resigned. (Khaled Elfiqi / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Opposition protesters celebrate Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak's resignation, in Tahrir Square on Friday. President Mubarak bowed to pressure from the street and resigned, handing power to the army. (Suhaib Salem / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Anti-government protesters celebrate inside Tahrir Square after the announcement of Mubarak's resignation in Cairo on Friday. (Dylan Martinez / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. On Egyptian state television, Al-Masriya, Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman delivers an address announcing that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has stepped down, in Cairo on Friday. (TV via AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: Anti-government protesters celebrate inside Tahrir Square after the announcement of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's resignation in Cairo
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    Slideshow (17) Egypt's Mubarak steps down - World reacts

Explainer: Key players in Egyptian protests

  • Image: A senior army officer salutes a crowd of cheering protesters at Tahrir square in Cairo
    YANNIS BEHRAKIS  /  Reuters
    A senior army officer salutes a crowd of cheering protesters at Tahrir square in Cairo.

    Protesters stormed Cairo streets in a bid to drive Hosni Mubarak from power, even as the longtime president set the stage for a successor by naming his intelligence chief as his first-ever vice president.

    The following are key players in the unfolding crisis.

    Sources: The Associated Press, Reuters

  • Ex-president

    Image: Mubarak
    Khaled Desouki  /  AFP - Getty Images
    Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak

    Name: Hosni Mubarak

    Age: 82

    Role: Mubarak resigned as president and handed control to the military on Feb. 11, bowing down after a historic 18-day wave of pro-democracy demonstrations by hundreds of thousands. The former air force commander had ruled Egypt for 30 years as leader of the National Democratic Party.

    Background: Mubarak was thrust into office when Islamists gunned down his predecessor Anwar Sadat at a military parade in 1981. He has long promoted peace abroad and on the domestic front he has kept a tight lid on political opposition. He has resisted any significant political change even under pressure from the United States. The U.S. has poured billions of dollars of military and other aid into Egypt since it became the first Arab state to make peace with Israel, signing a treaty in 1979.

    Controversy: Mubarak won the first multicandidate presidential election in 2005 although the outcome was never in doubt and his main rival came in a distant second. Rights groups and observers said the election was marred by irregularities.

    Personal note: There have been questions about his health after surgery in Germany last March.

  • New VP

    Arno Burgi  /  EPA
    Omar Suleiman

    Name: Omar Suleiman
    Age: 74
    Role: The intelligence chief and Mubarak confidant became Egypt's first vice president in three decades on Jan. 29. The move clearly set up a succession that would hand power to Suleiman and keep control of Egypt in the hands of military men.
    Military man: He has been the director of the Egyptian General Intelligence Services since 1993, a part in which he has played a prominent public role in diplomacy, including in Egypt's relations with Israel and the United States. In 1992 he headed the General Operations Authority in the Armed Forces and then became the director of the military intelligence unit before taking over EGIS. Suleiman took part in the war in Yemen in 1962 and the 1967 and 1973 wars against Israel.
    Intel chief: Suleiman was in charge of the country's most important political security files, and was the mastermind behind the fragmentation of Islamist groups who led the uprising against the state in the 1990s.

  • New PM

    Image: Ahmed Shafiq
    Mohamed Abd El Ghany  /  Reuters
    Egypt's Civil Aviation Minister Ahmed Shafiq.

    Name: Ahmed Shafiq
    Age: 69
    Role: President Mubarak appointed Shafiq as prime minister on Jan. 29.
    Background: A close associate of Mubarak, Shafiq has been minister of civil aviation since 2002. As minister of civil aviation, Shafiq has won a reputation for efficiency and administrative competence. He has supervised a successful modernization program at the state airline, EgyptAir, and improvements to the country's airports.
    Former fighter pilot: Shafiq served as commander of the Egyptian air force between 1996 and 2002, a post Mubarak held before he became vice president of Egypt under former President Anwar Sadat.

  • Rival

    Mohamed ElBaradei
    John Macdougall  /  AFP - Getty Images
    Mohamed ElBaradei

    Name: Mohamed ElBaradei
    Age: 68
    Role: The Nobel Peace Prize winner joined demonstrators trying to oust Mubarak. ElBaradei has suggested he might run for president if democratic and constitutional change were implemented.
    Atomic watchdog: ElBaradei joined the International Atomic Energy Agency in 1984 and served as its director-general in 1997. He transformed the IAEA into a body bold enough to take a stand on political issues relating to peace and proliferation, despite critics' belief that it was not its place. In 2005, ElBaradei and the IAEA were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He retired in 2009.
    Law and diplomacy: He studied law, graduating from the University of Cairo and the New York University School of Law. He began his career in the Egyptian diplomatic service in 1964, working twice in the permanent missions of Egypt to the United Nations in New York and Geneva. He was in charge of political, legal and arms control issues. He was a special assistant to the Egyptian foreign minister and was a member of the team that negotiated the peace settlement with Israel at Camp David in 1978. He joined the United Nations two years later.
    On Iraq: ElBaradei was outspoken on the lack of evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, which angered the Bush administration.

  • On guard

    Lefteris Pitarakis  /  AP
    Egyptian army soldiers in Tahrir square in Cairo.

    Name: Egyptian Armed Forces
    Role: The army remains the most powerful institution in the nation, and whatever it does next will determine the future of the Arab world's most populous country. The military appeared to be going to great lengths to calm the country without appearing opposed to  demonstrations. 
    Background: Egypt's 500,000-man army has long enjoyed the respect of citizens who perceive it as the country's least corrupt and most efficient public institution, particularly compared to a police force notorious for heavy handedness and corruption. It is touted as having defeated Israel in the 1973 Mideast War, and revered for that role.
    Stabilizer: The military, for its part, sees itself as the guarantor of national stability and above the political fray, loyal to both the government and what it sees as the interests of the general population. The military has given Egypt all of its four presidents since the monarchy was toppled in 1952.
    Provider:  Although it has almost completely withdrawn from politics since 1952, the army has added to its strength by venturing into economic activity, playing a growing role in such key service industries as food production and construction. It stepped in in 2008 during an acute shortage of bread, Egypt's main stable, which it provided from its own bakeries. It has since opened outlets for basic food items sold as vastly discounted prices.

  • The Brotherhood

    Image: Mohamed Badie
    Asmaa Waguih  /  Reuters
    Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie

    Name: Muslim Brotherhood
    Role: The brotherhood is Egypt's largest and most organized political opposition movement. Banned in 1954 on charges of using violence, members returned to Egypt to show support in protests.
    Background: The group said it has since denounced violence and expanded its international presence. It has participated in Egyptian elections as independents despite frequent crackdowns. It surprisingly won about 20 percent of the 454 seats in 2005 parliamentary elections and since then, authorities have jailed around 5,000 of its members. The group believes in Islamic rule.
    New audience: The Muslim Brotherhood is the focus of a TV series, "Al-Gamaa," or "The Group," which centers on a 2009 court case in which members were accused of setting up a student militia.

  • Mubarak's son

    Image: Gamal Mubarak
    Khaled El Fiqi  /  EPA
    Gamal Mubarak

    Name: Gamal Mubarak
    Age: 47
    Role: Served as secretary general of his father's National Democratic Party.
    Background: The younger Mubarak spent 11 years working at Bank of America in Cairo and London, had gained considerable influence in government after his father appointed him head of the ruling National Democratic Party's (NDP) policy committee in 2002. Many Egyptians felt Mubarak was grooming Gamal as his successor. Before Gamal rose to prominence, speculation was rife in the 1990s that Mubarak wanted Alaa, Gamal's younger brother, to succeed him.


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