Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down and ceded power to the military Friday after 18 days of pro-democracy protests calling for his ouster.
“President Hosni Mubarak has decided to step down and has handed power to the Supreme Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces,” Vice President Omar Suleiman announced on state radio and television, according to The Los Angeles Times.
Several hundred thousand protesters gathered in Cairo’s central square erupted into cheers and whistles when the televised statement was made just after nightfall, The Associated Press reports. People waved Egyptian flags, honked car horns, fired celebratory shots into the air and chanted, “The people have brought down the regime!”
The announcement came just one day after Mubarak vowed to serve until September, provoking anger from demonstrators.
The 82-year-old fled Cairo with his family on Friday for their home in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El Sheikh.
Nobel Peace laureate Mohammed ElBaradei, who flew to Egypt weeks ago to join in the protests, told The Associated Press, “This is the greatest day of my life.
“The country has been liberated after decades of repression,” he said.
After the announcement, a military spokesman said the armed forces would not act as a substitute for a “legitimate” government, and that it would soon make arrangements to enact the changes Egyptians want, AP reports.