Mubarak meets top military commanders as protests rage


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.

The Army increased its presence on the streets of thecapital, and blocked roads with tanks and flew in fighter jetsover the city after lootings and arson were witnessed.

However, the protests continued unabated and the militarydid not make any move to target or disperse thousands ofprotesters at the Tahrir Square, which has now become a symbolof the mass uprisisng, and a centre where demonstraters havebeen converging defying night curfews.

Many armymen had earlier doffed uniforms to join theuprising against Mubarak''s 30-year rule. All eyes are now onthe powerful military which is widely believed to have apivotal role to play in seeing a smooth transition in power.

Pro-democracy activist and Nobel Laureate MohammadElBaradei too joined the protesters at the Square this eveningand demanded the beginning of "a new Egypt in which eachEgyptian lives in virtue, freedom and dignity".

ElBaradei said earlier that he has been mandated by theorganisers of the demonstrations and by many other sections ofEgyptians, to negotiate on a national unity government.

He criticised the US policy and Egypt and asked the US to"stop the life support" to the dictator while asking Mubarakto step down. He also said that the Muslim Brotherhood willhave to be part of any future government and also indicatedthat he will reach out to the Army.

He said the Brotherhood was part of Egyptian society andthe myth of it being an extremist body has been "perpetuatedand sold by the regime" but has "no iota of reality".

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for an"orderly transition" to a democratic set up in Egypt, asforeign governments began evacuating citizens from Egypt.

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.

As protests raged for the sixth day, Cairo and othercities faced growing lawlessness with gangs of armed menhelping free thousands of prisoners and looters rampagingmalls, banks and jewellery stores.

Qatar-based Al-Jazeera channel put the death toll at 150and said 4,000 people had been injured since protests began,while some other reports said over 100 had been killed.

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

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