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Egyptian Protesters Gather For 11th Day Of Protests


Its MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

Tens of thousands of people streamed into Cairo's Tahrir Square today, joining the anti-government demonstration that began last week. Egypt's military seems to be taking stronger steps to prevent more bloodshed - a very real fear after the furious fighting that took place on Wednesday.

Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei has been one of the leading voices for reform. Today he called on President Hosni Mubarak to, quote, "hear the clear voice coming from the people and leave in dignity."

We're on the line now with NPR's Corey Flintoff who is in Cairo. And, Corey, what does the situation look like now there?

COREY FLINTOFF: Well, the square already seems packed, as full as you could imagine it. But hundreds of people are just massed outside now waiting to get in. They're streaming towards the demonstration over the bridges that cross the Nile here. Some demonstrators have formed rows of human chains to block the entrances and people are coming in in single file to be searched for weapons and to have their IDs checked. You actually had to go through several of these chains before you can reach the square.

The people we talked to this morning were determined and optimistic. Many of them say that they really expect that what they're calling the Friday of departure will be a turning point and that President Mubarak will eventually yield to calls for him to depart.

MONTAGNE: And what is the make-up of the crowd - I mean, how many of the protesters are from Egypt's Islamist Muslim Brotherhood?

FLINTOFF: You know, many of the protesters we talked to this morning were anxious to dispel claims that the uprising is being led or even associated with the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. You can see that there seems to be a pretty broad cross section of people by economic class in the group and several people insisted that this is a people's uprising and that claims that it's an Islamist uprising are a scare tactic to scare the U.S. into thinking that Egypt could fall much as Iran fell after the Iranian revolution.

MONTAGNE: And the army at this point has been guarding this square in a sense this morning more than before. What's it doing right now?

FLINTOFF: Well, we've seen a bigger army presence than we've seen in days. Egypt's defense minister, Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, visited military units on the edge of the square this morning. It was his first time to come to the demonstration.

Earlier this morning soldiers removed some of these makeshift barriers that the demonstrators had put up and they strung razor wire. They put tanks and armored vehicles in the side streets. So there seems to be a real effort to protect the demonstration better than certainly they've done over the past few days.

MONTAGNE: So the problem of Mubarak forces which were pretty well armed in these other clashes - where are they today?

FLINTOFF: Well, we're not seeing a lot of pro-Mubarak presence - at least around the square or in any of the places where they've formed up before. We have heard though that regime supporters were blocking the highway from Alexandria to keep anti-government protesters from reaching Cairo to join this demonstration.

MONTAGNE: Okay, well thank you very much, NPR's Corey Flintoff. And we'll be talking to you as this story moves and changes.

FLINTOFF: Thanks, Renee.

MONTAGNE: Corey speaking to us from Cairo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

FLINTOFF: Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Cairo.

Corey Flintoff is a correspondent with the Foreign Desk. His career has taken him to more than 45 countries.Since 2005, Flintoff has been part of the NPR team covering the Iraq War. He has embedded with U.S. military units fighting insurgents and hunting roadside bombs. His stories from Iraq have dealt with sectarian killings, government corruption, the Christian refugee crisis, and the destruction of Iraq's southern marshes.