Vice President Omar Suleiman announced Friday, Feb. 11, that Hosni Mubarak had decided to step down as president of Egypt and hand his powers to the Higher Council of the Armed Forces· The announcement over state TV was greeted with ecstatic cheers by the protesters assembled in Cairo's Tahrir Square and other city centers on the 18th day of their demonstrations for his ouster.
By a single sentence Suleiman marked the end of Mubarak's 32-year rule of Egypt. Earlier, he was flown by a military craft out of Cairo to his Sinai residence at Sharm el-Sheikh.
debkafile reports that in fact a military coup d'etat took place and the high army command is in charge of administering the nation. Any civilian stepping into the presidential office would have to cooperate with the army.
According to the Egyptian constitution, the president's powers pass to the Speaker of Parliament for a transitional period lasting between 60 days and two years. It is not clear whether Suleiman stays on as Vice President or takes his seat on the High Army Council alongside Defense Minister Field Marshal Mohamad Tantawi, head of the Council, and the Chief of Staff Gen. Sami Al-Anan. debkafile reports that the coup was originally scheduled for Thursday, 24 hours earlier, when the crowds camping in Tahrir Square were fired up by reports of the president's imminent resignation. They gave the army commanders the last push to take over as per demand.
American sources, including CIA Director Leon Panetta, said openly that Mubarak would resign Thursday night. When Mubarak went on the air to state he would last out his term until September, Panetta rephrased his comments. In his speech, Mubarak said he would transfer some of his powers to Vice President Suleiman but oversee the transition of power himself. Friday morning, the High Army Council convened after hectic conversations with Washington and the generals after hesitating for several hours presented their ultimatum, which gave Mubarak no option but to resign. An army aircraft flew him out of Cairo to Sharm el-Sheikh.