CAIRO — After two days of clashes with government loyalists, masses of anti-government demonstrators again packed Cairo's Tahrir Square after Friday afternoon Islamic prayers for what they called Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's "day of departure."
Mubarak, however, showed no signs of bowing to the demonstrators' demand that he resign after nearly 30 years in power, and hundreds of his supporters also gathered in Cairo for what the regime dubbed a "day of loyalty."
There were no major clashes by late afternoon Friday, but the roads around Tahrir Square were tense. After a few hundred pro-Mubarak supporters gathered near the north entrance to the square near the Egyptian Museum, where the two sides fought with stones and firebombs two days earlier, about 100 anti-Mubarak protesters rallied on the opposite side of the road and ran past chanting, "He must go!"
Unlike previous days, the Egyptian army beefed up its presence around the square, checking cars and pedestrians for weapons and keeping a close watch alongside tanks and tangles of concertina wire. The demonstrators themselves established strict security checks at all entrances to the square to keep opponents from entering, subjecting each person to several pat-downs.
By midday, lines to enter the square stretched all the way across bridges spanning the Nile River. Inside the square, the upbeat atmosphere of previous days returned as hundreds of thousands of demonstrators of all ages — young women in headscarves, retirees with canes, men with bandaged heads who'd been wounded in the week's fighting — declared it Mubarak's deadline to leave office.
As the day before, the demonstrators set up lines of rocks to use as weapons in case of attack. Many wore hard hats or makeshift helmets for protection. The injured were treated like heroes, with grown men stopping to kiss them on their bandages.
Several Egyptians had heard Mubarak's comments from the previous night, when he told ABC News that he was "fed up" after so many years in public life but couldn't resign because it would result in chaos.
"We are the ones who are fed up," said Sara Gouda, a 20-year-old engineering student, who came to Tahrir Square with her father and three siblings. "We are tired of the poverty and the lack of educational standards. We want him to leave."
Huge crowds also gathered in Alexandria, Egypt's second largest city. Daily News Egypt, a website, said that 800,000 anti-Mubarak demonstrators had gathered in the city center but reported no major skirmishes.
On the 11th straight day of demonstrations calling for Mubarak to leave, the chants had grown more creative. "'Departure' means 'leave,'" one group sang. Another group, referring to Israel's support of Mubarak, said, "Talk to him in Hebrew because he doesn't understand Arabic."
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