Chaos engulfs Cairo as Mubarak points to succession


Cairo, Jan 30 (PTI) Looters rampaged through malls andluxury shops in upmarket Cairo as more army men doffed theiruniforms and joined the unprecedented movement for EgyptianPresident Hosni Mubarak''s ouster that has left over 100 deadin the last six days.

Breaking into malls along the Nile, looters picked upTV sets, furniture, electronic items and clothes defyingcurfew and and heavy presence of security personnel in thecapital.

A beleaguered Mubarak, 82, had yesterday showed firstsigns of handing over power as he appointed for the first timehis intelligence chief Omar Suleiman as Vice-President after30 years of autocratic rule.

Thousands of protesters defied the curfew for thesecond night and Cairo''s central Tahrir (Liberation) Squareremained filled with protesters.

Troops and armoured vehicles have been deployed acrossthe city to guard key government buildings, and major touristand archaeological sites.

Despite heavy security presence, at least two lootersmanaged to get into Cairo''s museum of antiquities and damagedsome of the exhibits. Thieves broke into the ArabInternational Bank and several cafes and eateries.

To protect their property from looters, residents ofthe city set up committees armed with guns, clubs and knives.

At least 102 people have been killed in five days ofanti-government unrest, security and medical sources said.

Protesters yesterday tried to storm the InteriorMinistry in central Cairo after which police opened firekilling three persons.

Shortly after Suleiman, an army career man, was swornin, Mubarak asked the current aviation minister Ahmed Shafiq,to form a new government. Shafiq, a former chief of Air Staff,has often been mooted as a potential successor to Mubarak.

As the violence raged, the President yesterday heldcrisis talks with officials late in the afternoon andappointed the new Vice President and Prime Minister. (MORE)PTI NSA ETB VMN

In Tahrir Square, which was the epicentre of yesterday''s massive demonstration, there was only a lightmilitary presence -- a few tanks -- and soldiers are notintervening.

Yesterday, protesters also besieged a police stationin the Giza neighborhood of Cairo, looted and pulled downEgyptian flags before burning the building to the ground.

Cairo stock exchange will be closed today - a fulltrading day in the Middle East - because of the turmoil in thecity.

The unrest in Egypt have been inspired by an uprisingin Tunisia two weeks ago which toppled President Zineal-Abidine Ben Ali after 23 years in power.

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