CAIRO, Egyot (AFP) – He survived 10 attempts on his life, and at 82 his health was a subject of speculation. But in the end, it was his people who brought down Egypt’s modern-day pharaoh.
Pulling off a second surprise in as many days, President Hosni Mubarak today stepped down and handed over power to the army from whose ranks he emerged, his deputy Omar Suleiman announced on television.
Late Thursday when he had been expected to quit, Mubarak said in a televised speech he would stay on until September, to the fury of hundreds of thousands of demonstrators waiting to celebrate in central Cairo.
The party was delayed for one day, in an emotional roller-coaster for the mostly youthful demonstrators.
Until the outbreak of anti-government protests on January 25, Mubarak seemed insurmountable as president of the most populous nation in the Arab world.
His rise to power came unexpectedly, when his predecessor Anwar Sadat —who made history by signing a peace deal with Israel — was gunned down by Islamist militants on October 6, 1981 during a military parade in Cairo.
He took office a week after the assassination, and since then he ruled without interruption under a draconian emergency law that remains in force.
Islamic fundamentalist groups — including Al-Jihad, Gamaa Islamiyya and Talaeh al-Fatah — were responsible for most of the attempts on Mubarak’s life on both Egyptian and foreign soil.
His government’s ties with the United States and Israel made him a target of criticism across the region, especially during the 2006 Israel war in Lebanon and Israel’s Gaza offensive in 2008-2009.
Domestic opponents accused Washington of turning a blind eye to human rights abuses, corruption and the Mubarak regime’s failure to push ahead with badly needed reforms.