Mubarak losing grip in Egypt, meets top military commanders

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Rania

Cairo, Jan 30 (PTI) Facing an unprecedented people''srevolt, President Hosni Mubarak''s grip on power loosened todayas demonstrators, many indulging in looting and arson, clashedwith security forces which raised the death toll in the lastsix days of outpouring to 150.

In a desperate move to cling to power, Mubarak, 82,visited the military headquarters and met the newly appointedVice President Omar Suleiman and top commanders after whichmore troops and armoured vehicles moved on to the streets.

Many armymen doffed uniforms to join the uprising againstMubarak''s 30-year autocratic rule. All eyes are now on thepowerful military which is widely believed to have a pivotalrole to play in seeing a smooth transition in power.

Cairo and other cities faced growing lawlessness withgangs of armed men helping free thousands of prisoners andlooters rampaging malls, banks and jewellery stores.

Qatar-based Al-Jazeera channel put the death toll at 150and said that 4,000 people had been injured since theunprecedented mass protests against Mubarak''s regime began onTuesday, while some other reports said over 100 had beenkilled.

For the first time, a large number of judges also joinedthe mass protests threatening to destabilise the world''s mostpopulous Arab State.

Taking advantage of the fluid situation, armed gangsfired at guards in four prisons, including in Alexandria andAswan, and helped thousands of inmates to flee.

An estimated 5,000 inmates broke free from a jail in ElFayoum, south of Cairo, killing a senior police officer, mediareports said.

Mobs stormed into upmarket malls, bank, jewellery andelectronic stores beside government buildings and looted TVsets, furniture, electronic items and gold ornaments,defying curfew in the capital. Looting and arson continuedthrough the night as security personnel disappeared from thetrouble spots.

A special Air India aircraft flew in here to ferry over300 Indians to Mumbai, Indian Ambassador R Swaminathan said.

They will reach Mumbai tomorrow morning, he said.

The Indian mission is making arrangements for thosewishing to return home.

Pro-democracy advocate Mohamed ElBaradei, who returned toEgypt from Vienna on Thursday, asked Mubarak to step down,saying his response to the mass protests was "disappointing".

The Nobel laureate and former chief of the UN nuclearwatchdog, who was put under house arrest soon after joiningthe protests, said the nation will collapse if Mubarak stays.

In a telephonic interview to Al-Jazeera, he asked Mubarakto set a framework for transition of power and said it is theonly way to end the unrest that has rocked Egypt. (More) PTIKIM VMN

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