Egyptian activists gather in calmer setting
CAIRO (KABC) -- Thousands of demonstrators were packed into Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday, saying time has run out for President Hosni Mubarak. After 11 days of protests, anti-Mubarak demonstrators may soon get their way. Replacements for Mubarak are being considered.
The Obama administration has been talks with the Egyptian government for Mubarak to leave office immediately and newly appointed vice president Omar Suleiman to take over.
Friday, protesters streamed into the square, and after noon prayers they erupted into chants of defiance. In central Cairo, protestors feel his departure is imminent. Protesters are calling it "the day of departure."
The military has been keeping the situation peaceful, performing security checks on anyone entering the Tahrir Square. There has been no sign of pro-Mubarak demonstrators.
Egypt's defense minister made an unexpected visit to Liberation Square, pleading with protesters that what they are doing is "not good for Egypt."
Suleiman promised ABC's Christiane Amanpour the regime will not force protesters to leave.
"We will not use any violence against them, but we will ask them to go home," he said.
An Egyptian reporter who was shot during clashes a week ago died of his wounds Friday, his employer said, in the first reported death of a journalist in the chaos surrounding Egypt's anti-government protests.
Ahmed Mohammed Mahmoud, 36, was taking photographs of fighting between protesters and security forces from the balcony of his home when he was shot Jan. 28, state-run newspaper Al-Ahram said on its website.
Mahmoud worked for Al-Taawun, a newspaper put out by the Al-Ahram publishing house. He lived near central Tahrir Square, the focal point of protest rallies as well as clashes this week between large crowds of supporters and opponents of President Hosni Mubarak.
The Egyptian government is still facing a lot of criticism for its treatment of journalists. Many have been beaten, arrested and even threatened with their lives, including an ABC News crew.
"'We're going to behead you.' I mean, I was under (the) impression this was it," said ABC News photographer Akram Abin-Hanna.
A producer said a man in a police uniform thought that the crews' coverage was biased against Mubarak.
"He said, 'So help me God, I will cut off your head.' And all around, there are other people saying, 'Cut head now! Cut head now!' It was terrifying. We really, really thought that we were finished," said ABC News producer Brian Hartman.
News organization Al-Jazeera claims that group of men stormed its offices in Cairo and torched the place. It also says its website was hacked.
In an exclusive interview with ABC News on Thursday, Mubarak rejected any notion that the government instigated any of the violence.
Mubarak also told ABC News that if he leaves office now, chaos would erupt in Egypt, but people are already considering his replacement, including Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei and the Arab League chief Amr Moussa.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
riot, protest, world news, subha ravindhran
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