*Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will step down Thursday evening, sources have told NBC News, and is expected to announce the nature of his departure via a taped speech to air on Egypt’s state television later tonight .
Current vice-president Omar Suleiman will take over the presidency, sources also said.
Military forces in the country have begun to prepare for the transition, according to a report from Reuters.
“The Higher Army Council held a meeting today under Hussein Tantawi the head of the armed forces and minister of defense to discuss the necessary measures and preparations to protect the nation, its gains and the aspirations of the people,” the state news agency MENA said. “The council decided to remain in continuous session to discuss measures that can be taken in this regard.”
State television carried footage of the meeting which did not show the presence of Mubarak or his vice president Omar Suleiman.
Al-Arabiya television said Mubarak was no longer in Cairo, but had traveled to the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh with his army chief of staff. However, NBC’s Middle East correspondent Richard Engel just said that those reports are not true. Mubarak is still in Cairo – as of 12 p.m. EST, 7 p.m. Cairo time.
Broadcasts on Al-Jazeera television showed protesters gathered in Tahrir Square chanting and cheering the reports.
Egypt has been rocked by two weeks of protests demanding that Mubarak, who has ruled for 30 years, step down before his term expires in September.