- Associated Press - Saturday, January 29, 2011

CAIRO (AP) — With protests raging, President Hosni Mubarak named his intelligence chief as his first-ever vice president on Saturday — setting the stage for a successor as demands for the longtime leader’s ouster showed no sign of abating. The death toll rose from five days of anti-government protests rose sharply to 74.

The capital descended further into chaos, with gangs of thugs setting fires and looting shops and homes. Residents and shopkeepers in affluent neighborhoods were boarding up their houses and stores against the looters roaming the streets with knives and sticks and gunfire was heard in some neighborhoods.

Tanks and armored personnel carriers fanned out across the city of 18 million, guarding key government buildings. Egyptian television reported the army was deploying reinforcements to neighborhoods to try to control the lawlessness.

The military was protecting major tourist and archaeological sites such as the Egyptian Museum, home to some of the country’s most treasured antiquities, as well as the Cabinet building. The military closed the pyramids on the outskirts of Cairo — Egypt’s premiere tourist site.

Thousands of protesters defied the curfew for the second night, standing their ground in the main Tahrir Square in a resounding rejection of Mubarak’s attempt to hang onto power with promises of reform and a new government.

Egyptian anti-government activists, one of them holding a crossed-out portrait of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, chant slogans as they protest in downtown Cairo, Egypt, on Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Egyptian anti-government activists, one of them holding a crossed-out portrait of Egyptian ... more >

Police protecting the Interior Ministry near the site opened fire at a funeral procession for a dead protester as it was passing through the crowd, possibly because it came too close to the force. Clashes broke out and at least two people were killed.

A 43-year-old teacher, Rafaat Mubarak, said the appointment of the president’s intelligence chief and longtime confidant Omar Sulieman as vice president did not satisfy the protesters.

“This is all nonsense. They will not fool us anymore. We want the head of the snake,” he said in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria. “If he is appointed by Mubarak, then he is just one more member of the gang. We are not speaking about a branch in a tree, we are talking about the roots.”

The protesters are unified in one overarching demand — Mubarak and his family must go. The movement is a culmination of years of simmering frustration over a government they see as corrupt, heavy-handed and neglectful of grinding poverty.

Egyptians were emboldened to take to the streets by the uprising in Tunisia — another North African Arab nation, and further buoyed by their success in defying the government ban on all gatherings.

At the end of a long day of rioting and mass demonstrations Friday that was the peak of five days of protests, Mubarak sacked his Cabinet and promised reforms. But that did not satisfy the demonstrators, who were out in force again Saturday to demand a complete change of regime.

The president had been seen as grooming his son Gamal to succeed him, possibly even as soon as in presidential elections planned for later this year. However, there was significant public opposition to the hereditary succession.

The appointment of Suleiman, 74, answers one of the most intriguing and enduring political questions in Egypt: Who will succeed 82-year-old Mubarak?

Another question is whether his appointment will calm the seething streets of Egypt’s cities.

Mubarak appointed Suleiman shortly after the U.S. said he needed to take concrete action to achieve “real reform.” Suleiman is well known and respected by American officials and has traveled to Washington many times.

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