CNN Wire Staff
Cairo, Egypt (CNN) - Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down Friday and handed over power to the military, his nearly three decades of iron rule ended by a groundswell of popular protests that began January 25.
In a somber one-minute announcement on state television, Vice President Omar Suleiman announced Mubarak's resignation and said the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces will "run the affairs of the country."
As Suleiman spoke, deafening cheers erupted among tens of thousands of Egyptians who thronged the streets of Cairo. It was a moment they had sought throughout long, often tense days of demonstrations - some of them violent - that demanded Mubarak's departure.
It was also a moment that many in the Arab world's powerhouse nation had not dared contemplate.
Chants of "Egypt is free!" and "God is great!" rose from the crowds, dizzy in the honeymoon of their success. Some waved Egyptian flags; others honked horns; still others set off fireworks as they savored the scene.
Two major bridges over the Nile River resembled congested parking lots, and partiers packed streets throughout Cairo. The state-run Middle East News Agency said some people had passed out from joy and others had suffered heart attacks.
"It was a sense of liberation for me, for every Egyptian," said opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei. "For the first time, Egypt has a chance to be democratic, to be free, to have a sense of dignity, of freedom. So it's amazing. It's just like something we never experienced in our lifetime."
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