Egyptian soldiers show solidarity with protesters, activist ElBaradei joins demonstrations
Sunday, January 30, 2011; 1:30 PM
CAIRO - Under the protective gaze of Egyptian soldiers, thousands of demonstrators converged on this capital city's central plaza Sunday and vowed to occupy the site until President Hosni Mubarak steps down.
But even as the gathering gained strength, fears rose across Cairo of mass looting after sundown by armed thugs who were widely believed by Egyptians, as well as by soldiers, to be operating at the behest of the nation's much-maligned Interior Ministry.
In Tahrir Square, the central plaza that has been the focus of anti-Mubarak sentiment, protesters and soldiers worked together to beat back two Interior Ministry vehicles that attempted to enter the site. A tank commander then scaled his vehicle and announced to the crowd that the Interior Ministry, which operates the nation's police force, had deployed thousands of armed men who were bent on sowing chaos in Egypt.
The army, he said, "would stand with the people."
The commander, dressed in battle fatigues, was cheered by the crowd and kissed on the cheek by demonstrators who chanted, "the army and the people are one."
Mohamed ElBaradei, a leading opposition activist and Nobel laureate, joined protesters in the square Sunday.
"You are the owners of this revolution. You are the future," he told the cheering crowd. "Our essential demand is the departure of the regime and the beginning of a new Egypt in which each Egyptian lives in virtue, freedom and dignity." The former head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog left after his brief appearance, and some demonstrators dismissed him as an expatriate long removed from the country's problems.
A spokesman for the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, which wants to establish an Islamist state in Egypt, told the Associated Press he was heading to Tahrir, or Liberation, Square to meet with other opposition leaders.
"You can call this a revolution, you can call this uprising, you can call it anything," spokesman Essam el-Erian said.
ElBaradei also appeared on ABC's "This Week With Christiane Amanpour" Sunday. "It doesn't even begin to address people's concerns," ElBaradei said, referring to Mubarak's actions so far. "The concern right now is that Mubarak has to go. Immediately. . . . The first step is that he has to go. The second step is a government of national salvation, in coordination with the army."
He said a transitional period should take place before the nation prepared for an election.
For the first time during his 30-year rule, Mubarak appointed a vice president, Omar Suleiman, the head of Egypt's intelligence service. The appointment took place a day after Mubarak called for the resignation of governmental officials while abstaining from stepping down.