Egyptian Protesters Gather For 11th Day Of Protests

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Many demonstrators fear that the regime of embattled President Hosni Mubarak will use Friday, the start of the Islamic weekend, to send thugs to attack them — touching off a battle as fierce as the one that raged earlier.

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On a day when anti-government protesters are pouring into Cairo's Liberation after Friday prayers, the government's top brass appeared in the square in a sense to greet them, and the mood in Tahrir Square, which is Liberation Square's proper name, is calm, determined and intense.

It is the beginning of the Islamic weekend. Many demonstrators fear the regime of President Hosni Mubarak will take advantage of that to send thugs to attack them. They're afraid of a battle as fierce as the one that raged midweek. Others are angry at the U.S. for what they see as its support for the regime. Most protesters say they will not leave until the square until the president steps down.

NPR's Corey Flintoff has this report.

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COREY FLINTOFF: All morning, protesters have entering the square, passing through orderly lines of men who've set up a defensive perimeter. Some are wearing hard hats, and there are piles of broken paving stones to be used as ammunition in case there's another assault.

Mr. AHMED IBRAHIM (Engineer): Mubarak is sending the criminals to attack us around the square.

Unidentified Man #1: It's just for defense.

Mr. IBRAHIM: Just for defense. We are not attacking.

FLINTOFF: That's Ahmed Ibrahim, a 32-year-old engineer who says he's been coming to the square for 10 days. He says that, despite persistent rumors, the protesters are not going to march out of the square to Egypt's presidential palace.

Mr. IBRAHIM: They want that. They want us to move, you know. You know, they want us to move from the square, but we will not do that.

FLINTOFF: Ibrahim says the square is the symbolic center of Egypt, and that the protesters won't leave until the government falls.

Fareed Ahmed, an engineer, dismisses the president's claims that Egypt will fall into chaos or undergo an Islamist revolution, like that in Iran.

Mr. FAREED AHMED (Engineer): He is only saying this to frighten all the Europe countries and the USA that he, these people is (unintelligible). If I leave now they will take, assume they run the revolution. No. It won't happen.

FLINTOFF: This man, Hisham Gar(ph), also rejects the government's claims that the demonstration has been organized by Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.

(Soundbite of clapping and chanting)

Mr. HISHAM GAR: Even the Muslim brotherhood is not taking part in this. The Egyptian, more people are moving by themselves. This is the point that they are not seeing. They're still talking about foreign agendas. No, foreign agendas are a part of the crowd. These people just assembled by themselves.

FLINTOFF: The anger in the square extends beyond Mubarak to the United States. This man says Egyptians respect American values of freedom and democracy, but...

Unidentified Man #2: We hate all your government all your government. And you have some validity because you elected them. You elected them to cooperate with this foolish, stupid Mubarak. You give him weapons. You order him to kill us.

FLINTOFF: He says the U.S. must stop all cooperation with Mubarak's government.

Egypt's army remains on the sidelines, but there's a stronger presence of tanks and troops in the side streets surrounding the square. Troops are also standing by at the entrances to the demonstration, guarding the opposition checkpoints. Ominously, there are also medical stations and lines of orange ambulances, standing by.

(Soundbite of chanting)

FLINTOFF: Throughout the morning, hundreds of people have been streaming across the bridges over the Nile, making their way to the square. Many believe the demonstration and any action on the part of the pro-government protesters will build to a crescendo after people leave the mosques in the early afternoon.

Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Cairo.

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