Unbowed by a week of mob violence and official entreaties, tens of thousands of Egyptians turned out for another Friday of protest. Defying military orders to “go home,” the anti-government protestors streamed into Tahrir (Liberation) Square after prayers all through the day.
Their single demand remained the same: the immediate exit of President Hosni Mubarak. The square was ringed by soldiers and armoured vehicles who searched for weapons. Many demonstrators brought water and food for those who had spent the night securing the area.There were reports the US government was trying to broker a deal with Egypt’s newly-appointed vice-president Omar Suleiman to bring in an interim reformist government and ease Mubarak out and end the 11-day-old people’s revolt.
Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, one of the leaders of the protest movement, lay out his scenario on Friday: a transitional government headed by a presidential council of two or three, including a military representative. He said Suleiman — a military man who was earlier intelligence chief — was an acceptable figure to sit on a presidential council.
State television declared it a “day of allegiance” for Mubarak. The protestors called it the “day of departure” for Mubarak.
Egyptian defence minister Hussein Tantawi visited the square along with top army officials to assess the situation.
And in his first television interview since the revolt began, Mubarak said he was “fed up” and wanted to quit but feared the nation would “sink into chaos” if he did so. In an earlier speech, he had vowed to remain president “as long as his heart is beating”.
Questions remained about the military. US officials said they’d received assurances from the top brass that they would not fire on demonstrators. Some analysts argued that the army was hoping to tire out the demonstrators. Others said it was hedging its bets, waiting to see who would win the political struggle.
Television images of the protests dried up following harassment and detention of camera crews by pro-Mubarak gangs and the military.