Mubarak downfall sparks jubilation

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Egyptians set off fireworks at Tahrir Square as they celebrate the resignation of president Hosni Mubarak (AP)

Celebrations have erupted across Egypt after Hosni Mubarak resigned as president and handed control to the military following 18 days of pro-democracy demonstrations.

Several hundred thousand protesters who had gathered in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square exploded into joy, waving Egyptian flags.

The crowd outside Mr Mubarak’s presidential palace chanted: “The people ousted the president!”

Car horns and celebratory shots in the air were heard around the city of 18 million after Vice President Omar Suleiman made the announcement on national TV just after nightfall.

Ecstatic protesters hoisted soldiers onto their shoulders and families posed for pictures in front of tanks in streets flooded with residents streaming out to celebrate. Strangers hugged strangers, some fell to kiss the ground, and others stood stunned in disbelief. Chants of “Hold your heads high, you’re Egyptian” roared with each burst of fireworks overhead.

“I’m 21 years old and this is the first time in my life I feel free,” said an ebullient Abdul-Rahman Ayyash, born eight years after Mr Mubarak came to power.

Mr Mubarak had sought to cling to power, handing some of his powers to Mr Suleiman while keeping his title, but an explosion of protests on Friday rejecting the move appeared to have pushed the military into forcing him out completely.

“In these grave circumstances that the country is passing through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to leave his position as president of the republic,” said a solemn Mr Suleiman. “He has mandated the Armed Forces Supreme Council to run the state. God is our protector and succour.”

The military, which effectively carried out a coup on behalf of the protesters, announced on state television that is was committed to shepherding demands for greater democracy and that it would announce the next steps soon, possibly including the dissolving of parliament and creation of a transitional government to lead reforms.

Nobel Peace prize winner Mohammed ElBaradei, whose young supporters were among the organisers of the protest movement, said: “This is the greatest day of my life. The country has been liberated after decades of repression.”

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