CAIRO -- With protests raging, Egypt's president named his intelligence chief as his first-ever vice president on Saturday, setting the stage for a successor as chaos engulfed the capital.
Soldiers stood by, with a few even joining the demonstrators, and the death toll from five days of anti-government fury rose sharply to 74.
Saturday's fast-moving developments across the north African nation marked a sharp turning point in President Hosni Mubarak's three-decade rule of Egypt.
Residents and shopkeepers in affluent neighborhoods boarded up their houses and stores against looters, who roamed the streets with knives and sticks, stealing what they could and destroying cars, windows and street signs. Gunfire rang out in some neighborhoods.
Tanks and armored personnel carriers fanned out across the capital, guarding key government buildings and major tourist and archaeological sites.
But soldiers made no moves against protesters, even after a curfew came and went and the crowds swelled in the streets, demanding an end to Mubarak's rule and no handoff to the son he had been grooming to succeed him.
"This is the revolution of people of all walks of life," read graffiti scrolled on one army tank in Tahrir Square. "Mubarak, take your son and leave," it said.
Thousands of protesters defied the curfew for a 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.
Police protecting the Interior Ministry near the square opened fire at a funeral procession for a dead protester, possibly because it came too close to the force. Clashes broke out and at least two people were killed.
A teacher, Rafaat Mubarak, 43, said the appointment of the president's intelligence chief and longtime confidant, Omar Suleiman, 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 crackdown on protesters has drawn harsh criticism from the Obama administration and even a threat Friday to reduce a $1.5 billion foreign aid program if Washington's most important Arab ally escalates the use of force.
The protesters united in one overarching demand, that 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 poverty.
At the end of a long day of rioting and mass demonstrations Friday, Mubarak fired his Cabinet and promised reforms. But the demonstrators returned in force again Saturday to demand a complete change of regime.
The president appeared to have been preparing his son Gamal to succeed him, possibly as soon as presidential elections planned for this year. However, there was significant public opposition to the hereditary succession.
Mubarak appointed Suleiman, 74, 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.
Before word that Mubarak had picked his first vice president, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the U.S. wanted to see Mubarak fulfill his pledges of reform.
"The Egyptian government can't reshuffle the deck and then stand pat," Crowley said on his Twitter account. "President Mubarak's words pledging reform must be followed by action."
As the army presence expanded in Cairo on Saturday, police largely disappeared from the streets, possibly because their presence seemed only to fuel protesters' anger. Egyptian police are hated for their brutality.
There were no clashes reported between protesters and the military, and many in the crowds showered soldiers with affection.
"To hell with Mubarak. We don't serve individuals, we serve this country that we love, just like you," yelled one soldier to protesters from atop a tank scrawled with graffiti that said: "Down with Mubarak!"
Like Mubarak, Suleiman has a military background. He has been in charge of some of Egypt's most sensitive foreign policy issues, including the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.
Suleiman, additionally, is widely seen as a central regime figure, a position that protesters were likely to view with suspicion.
Mubarak also named his new prime minister Ahmed Shafiq, the outgoing civil aviation minister and fellow former air force officer.
Both appointments perpetuate the military's overriding role in Egyptian politics.
Suleiman's frequent trips to Israel could be held against him by a population that continues to view the Jewish state as a sworn enemy more than 30 years after the two neighbors signed a peace treaty.