Egypt's Defense Minister visited Tahrir (Liberation) Square along with top army officials on Friday as thousands of protesters started gathering for a mass rally to force the immediate ouster of President Hosni Mubarak,on what the crowd dubbed the 'Friday of Departure'.
Defense Minister Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi and leaders of the Armed Forces are currently in Tahrir Square,' confirmed a Defense Ministry source as the protests entered their 11th day.
This was the first visit to the epicenter of protests that have convulsed Egypt by a senior minister since they erupted on January 25.
'Field Marshal Tantawi and leaders of the armed forces are currently in Tahrir Square,' the Defense Ministry source told Reuters.
He arrived at the entrance of Tahrir near the Egyptian Museum, the area which witnessed some of the fiercest violence on Wednesday when Mubarak loyalists charged the protesters.
'Tantawi is here in the square near the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir talking to the army. The atmosphere is pleasant,' one protester on the scene said.
Thousands of Egyptian protesters gathered in a central Cairo square for the big day. 'Today is the last day ... today is the last day!' protesters shouted as Arabic pop songs blared from a bank of speakers: 'For Egypt, today is a day a celebration!'
As the protests demanding an end to 30 years of Mubarak rule entered their 11th day, the army began removing barricades the protesters had erected after supporters of the President launched a deadly assault on them two days ago that left at least 10 dead and more than 800 wounded.