The “Hosni Mubarak flees Egypt” countdown has officially begun.
CAIRO — Egypt was engulfed in a fifth day of protests on Saturday but an attempt by President Hosni Mubarak to salvage his 30-year rule by firing his cabinet and calling out the army appeared to backfire as troops and demonstrators fraternized and called for the president himself to resign.
While some protesters clashed with police, army tanks expected to disperse the crowds in central Cairo and in the northern city of Alexandria instead became rest points and even, on occasion, part of the protests as anti-Mubarak graffiti were scrawled on them without interference from soldiers.
“Leave Hosni, you, your son and your corrupted party!” declared the graffiti on one tank as soldiers invited demonstrators to climb aboard and have their photographs taken with them.
“This is the revolution of all the people,” declared the side of a second tank in downtown Cairo. Egyptian men all serve in the army, giving it a very different relationship to the people from that of the police.
The feared security police had largely withdrawn from central Cairo to take up positions around the presidential palace, with their places taken up by the army.
Following Mr. Mubarak’s demand in his late-night speech, the Egyptian cabinet officially resigned on Saturday. But there was no sign of letup in the tumult. Reports from morgues and hospitals suggested that at least 50 people had been killed so far.
In Ramses Square in central Cairo Saturday midday, protesters commandeered a flatbed army truck. One protester was driving the truck around the square while a dozen others on the back were chanting for President Mubarak to leave office. Nearby, soldiers relaxed around their tanks and armored vehicles and chatted with protesters. There were no policemen in sight.