The New York Times online reports:
CAIRO —The Egyptian military appeared to assert its leadership Friday amid growing indications that President Hosni Mubarak was yielding all power. A Western official said that Mr. Mubarak had left the capital, though that could not be independently confirmed. ...
The Associated Press, citing a local official, said that Mr. Mubarak had flown to the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik, about 250 miles from Cairo, where he maintains a residence.
Angry protesters, who had swarmed by the thousands into the streets here Friday morning, were hardly mollified by the news of Mr. Mubarak’s exit and an accompanying statement by the Supreme Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces over state television and radio indicating that the military, not Mr. Mubarak, was in effective control of the country...
It was unclear whether the military would take meaningful steps toward democracy or embark on a new military dictatorship.
Watching NileTV from Egypt via CNN at the moment; thousands of people standing outside an army cordon, but the soldiers are throwing bags of water or food to some in the crowd, which appears to be in and around the Presidential palace.
A NileTV Reporter is down in the crowd with what appears to be a hand-held radiophone ('walkie-talkie') in one hand, and a Blackberry in the other, talking in one, then the other, back and forth. He's interviewing what appear on occasion to be organizers of the demonstrators, and at other times Guys In The Street, telling the stories or making statements. That sounds normal, to us. In Egypt, it's utterly without precedent.
Try to imagine not being able to express an opinion about your government unless in praise of it. Now, people are standing in the street by the thousands, and can make statements via the national television of a major Arabic nation, saying whatever they want about Mubarak and current events -- and not ending up in jail? Incredible.
(Of course, here, we allow a rainbow of free public discourse -- which means you end up with Evangelicals and White Power crazies and Teabaggers, centrists and Buddhists; Greenpeace, Code Pink and Earth First. So go figure.)
What I'm watching is also being seen in a number of countries in the Arabic world. I imagine the House of Saud must be feeling a little unsettled these days. I can also imagine Osama and his buddies are following this very closely. And Hamas. And Hezbollah. And the Iranians.
And, you can see cell phones being used by demonstrators as they mill around, talking and texting; this is a digital revolution, baby; and it is being televised.
CNN's in-studio translator can't keep up; there is lots of shouting, and people seem to be unhappy (predictably, for a revolution). I'm not getting the sense that the situation is clear for the demonstrators or anyone else.
The protestors are united in their demand that Mubarak leave office and relinquish all control. As it's been reported, this will trigger automatic national elections within 60 days, and a certain amount of chaos.
This is not what the U.S. wants: Our position, as stated by Obama and Secretary Of State Clinton, has been for an "orderly" transfer of power, which was why we were satisfied with Mubarak's announcement that he would step down in September when his term in office was set to expire.
It appears a majority of people in Egypt have, uh, other ideas.