Nightly News | February 04, 2011
>>> good evening back home in new york tonight. and tonight the cairo we left behind seems very different than, again, every day in this 11-day drama has been very different. the protesters called today the day of departure, meaning president mubarak 's departure, but that was wishful thinking on their part, as he is still in place tonight. there was some violence today, but it was more peaceful and a lot of the protesters took part in friday prayers. the strange thing was those mubarak supporters, the thugs, the street gangs , seemed to disappear today just as suddenly as they first appeared earlier this week in such awful fashion when we saw those ugly scenes of violence with egyptians attacking fellow egyptians. so what did today mean and where are we headed possibly after this eventful week? our chief foreign correspondent, richard engle, remains on post tonight in cairo . richard , good evening.
>> reporter: good evening, brian. the day began tense. the protesters were bracing for violence. it never really happened. president mubarak may be adopting a new strategy, patience. several hundred thousand gathered after friday prayers to denounce president hosni mubarak and celebrate their unprecedented 11 days of continuous demonstrations. families were back out. it was peaceful, well organized, even joyous. the protesters are greeting new arrivals by singing and cheering them on, saying that mubarak will go, we will not go. unlike the supporters of president mubarak , who have attacked and chased down dozens of reporters, the anti-government protesters welcomed the media. one man today held a sign that said in arabic "thank you facebook." the protesters called today the day of departure, the day mubarak would leave.
>> leave now, not tomorrow.
>> reporter: that didn't happen. but the demonstrators are gaining legitimacy here. egypt 's defense minister visited tahrir today before most of the protesters arrived. it was the clearest indication yet that the military is protecting the protesters. a movement egypt 's vice president said only yesterday was led by islamic groups and foreign journalists, conspiring to bring egypt to chaos. for the first time, the army established an effective defensive perimeter around tahrir to avoid a repeat of wednesday, when mubarak loyalists, goon squads, attacked demonstrators on horseback, with rocks, molotov cocktails and bullets, until the protesters fought back and held the square. today, the wounded in that fight were paraded through the square, honored for their sacrifice in what is now being called here the battle of tahrir , liberation. a man proudly showed us where he was hit by rocks and a shotgun. but while the army defended the protesters today, u.s. officials tell nbc news most of president mubarak 's top advisers, including from the military, are not telling him he needs to step down or leave the country. the army is still looking for an elegant solution, a combination of reforms and dialogue that would satisfy both sides. for now, mubarak 's strategy may be just to wait out the protests, if he can. today his prime minister said the protests can continue as long as there's no violence. but u.s. officials worry an ongoing crisis is not in egypt 's or the united states ' best interests. cairo is growing more lawless. violent confrontations continue today, although it was kept away from tahrir square. groups like the muslim brotherhood are gaining ground, while the country remains in chaos. and the uprising is spreading panic to other u.s. allies in the region. perhaps for that reason alone, the revolt in egypt was embraced today by iran's ayatollah khamenei . it's an especially odd endorsement since iran depressed a pro- democracy movement in 2009 . the iranian regime won that fight. egypt 's future remains uncertain. president mubarak now may face a new rival. the popular secretary general of the arab league spoke in tahrir square today. he's someone to watch. and, brian, that crackdown on journalists we spoke about the other day is still continuing. al jazeera reported that its offices were ransacked by pro- mubarak supporters and an egyptian journalist who was shot last week has died.
>> richard engle who along with our team on the ground remains in cairo . tough place to do business these days. richard , thanks.