Egyptian protesters are staging "Day of Departure" rallies to press President Hosni Mubarak to step down at once. The US military's top officer has said the Egyptian army has pledged not to open fire on the crowd.
REUTERS - Tens of thousands of Egyptians gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square for an 11th day of protest on Friday calling for an immediate end to President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule.
On what they called the "Day of Departure", the crowd bowed in prayer and listened to a cleric declare: "We want the head of the regime removed". "Leave! Leave! Leave!" they chanted.
The mood was buoyant in the square, the epicentre of the protests, thronged by people from all walks of life, young and old, women and men, secular and religious.
"The people want the fall of regime. We want the murderer to be tried," shouted the crowd. They called on protesters from provinces across the country to join them.
Many of the protesters sat down after Friday prayers to listen to a Muslim cleric, over loudspeakers, calling on people to stay together in seeking their political demands.
"May God give you the wisdom and patience to stand against those who are trying to shake your goal," he said. Some protesters chanted "Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar" (God is the greatest, God is the greatest).
The army had surrounded the square with tanks and armoured vehicles and erected barbed-wire barriers. At one entrance, it was letting people in by only a small gap, creating a choke point as people queued to join the growing crowd.
Helicopters hovered over the city and 10 ambulances were parked in readiness at one spot on the edge of the square, which witnessed violence on Wednesday sparked by Mubarak loyalists who charged protesters.
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The cleric called for the lifting of emergency laws which opposition parties say have been used for decades to crush political dissent. He also demanded the immediate release of those arrested during the demonstrations.
After normal Friday prayers, protesters performed a special prayer in memory of those killed in the protests.
Hundreds of people walked to Tahrir Square across the Qasr al-Nile Bridge, queuing to pass through a checkpoint operated by protest organisers who were searching anybody seeking to enter the area. Army helicopters hovered overhead.
"We are not going to leave until our demands are fulfilled," protesters chanted from a bank of speakers in the middle of the square.
Earlier on Friday, Defence Minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawi spoke to the army at the square's northern entrance near the Egyptian Museum.
"The army and people are united," protesters chanted after one demonstrator announced over loudspeakers that the minister was in the square.
In pictures: Major players in Egypt’s crisis
The country’s new vice-president previously served as general intelligence director for almost two decades. Emerging from the political shadows only recently, Suleiman is now charged with talking to the opposition. (Photo credit: Screen grab from Al Oula TV).
Pro-American Lieutenant General Sami Anan (right) is chief of staff of the armed forces – some 350,000 soldiers and 470,000 reserves. He reportedly has enormous influence over the outcome of the crisis – depending on who he orders the army to side with. (Credit: AFP).
As Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, Badie has been at the head of Egypt’s most organised opposition movement for one year. He, along with his party, are demanding that Mubarak form a government of national unity. (Credit: FRANCE 24).
Opposition leader and 2005 Nobel Peace Prize winner, ElBaradei returned to Egypt on January 28 to join the protests. Outside of Egypt he is a strong favourite to be the next president, but inside the country he is little-known. (Credit: FRANCE 24).
Ghad Party leader and founder, Nour came second (albeit far behind Mubarak), in the presidential election of 2005. A political dissident and prominent human rights lawyer, he has endured several stints behind bars. (Credit: FRANCE 24).
Former foreign affairs minister, Moussa enjoys widespread popularity in Egypt for his hearty criticism of neighbouring Israel. Currently Secretary General of the Arab League, he has not ruled out running for the presidency. (Credit: FRANCE 24).
The youngest son of Hosni Mubarak serves as the deputy secretary-general of the president’s ruling National Democratic Party. He’s considered by many as the most likely successor to his father, but the opposition is determined to stop that from happening.
Many of the crowd had kept vigil in Tahrir Square overnight, while others pitched tents or slept on the ground, defying calls from the army and the vice president they should go home because their demands had been heard.
The army on Friday began removing barricades the protesters had erected after supporters of the president launched an assault on them two days ago that killed at least 10 and wounded more than 800.
Organisers called on people to march from wherever they were towards the square, the state television building and the parliament building -- all within a mile of one another.
Protesters had formed human chains to guard Tahrir Square and were checking identities and bags as demonstrators streamed in, trying to keep out pro-Mubarak supporters. The atmosphere remained relaxed.
Protesters said barbed wire had been put out at all 12 entrance points to the square.
Mubarak supporters on the main highway from Alexandria blocked cars from entering Cairo, a witness said.
Date created : 2011-02-04