Egyptian Army Endorses Mubarek as Protestors Push for Democracy and Risk of Power Vacuum Looms

President Hosni Mubarak refused to step down or leave Egypt and instead handed most of his powers to his vice president Omar Suleiman.

The Egyptian Army is reported to be supporting President Hosni Mubarak’s plan to hand power over to Vice President Omar Suleiman and retain his title for the rest of his term, but also pledged to ensure the transition to free elections. The office of the vice president has been vacant from October 14, 1981 through January 29, 2011. The vacancy occurring just after the third president of Egypt, Anwar El Sadat was assassinated on October 6, 1981. Hosni Mubarak, serving as vice president, was wounded in the attack. A fatwā approving the assassination of Anwar Sadat had been obtained from Omar Abdel-Rahman, a cleric later convicted in the US for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Anwar Sadat was succeeded by Hosni Mubarak.

The Egyptian government succeeded in apprehending the membership of Tanzim al-Jihad, but “was rather lenient in the ensuing trial”. Over three hundred Islamic radicals were indicted in the trial of assassin Khalid Islambouli. One notable radical, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was released from prison in 1984. Al-Zawahiri is now under worldwide embargo by the United Nations Security Council 1267 Committee as a member or affiliate of al-Qaeda. In prison, the Cairenes and Saidis reverted into two factions, the Cairo militants later becoming the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, and the Saidis later forming the al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, or the Islamic Group.

In 1998 al-Zawahiri, who is now referred to as ‘lieutenant’ to Osama Bin Laden, formally merged Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which he founded, into al-Qaeda. Ayman al-Zawahiri was born to a prominent upper middle class family in Maadi, Egypt, a suburb of Cairo. By age 14, al-Zawahiri had joined the Muslim Brotherhood and at 15 he founded an underground cell devoted to overthrowing the government of Egypt and establishing an Islamist state. On April 30, 2009, the US State Department reported that Zawahiri had emerged as the Al Qaeda’s operational and strategic commander with Osama Bin Laden now considered an ideological figurehead of Al Qaeda.

Yesterday, protesters warned the country could explode in violence and pleaded for the military to take action to push President Hosni Mubarek out.