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The Wounded March Victorious In Cairo Square

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CAIRO (AP) - Men with freshly bandaged heads marched through Tahrir Square on Friday, the wounded, victorious veterans of two days of street battles against supporters of President Hosni Mubarak.

A child made a victory sign with a bandaged hand and stared blankly into the distance. The men chanted for those killed battling for a few city blocks with showers of rocks and sheet metal shields on Wednesday and Thursday.

"Oh martyrs on the door of heaven!" they shouted. "Oh martyrs, rest. We'll continue the struggle!"

As the afternoon faded, the crowd of around 100,000 walked slowly around the square. A young man handed out cookies with quiet purpose, as if he was fueling his comrades for more fighting.

Suddenly, a clanging echoed across the square. Young men banged lengths of iron rebar against a metal fence and hundreds rushed out of the square and into a street heading east toward downtown.

Hundreds of Mubarak supporters in nearby Talat Harb Square were moving down the street toward Tahrir Square.

"Whenever they start approaching, we start giving that alert," said Karim, a 28-year-old engineer who spoke in English and declined to give his last name for fear of government retaliation.

Everywhere, the roadway was broken up into fist-sized chunks of asphalt - and the two sides showered each other with volleys until a mass of bloodied fighters swarmed back into Tahrir, or Liberation, Square with a captured pro-government man in their midst.

"They don't hit them, they don't beat them up," said Bahaa Kialani, a 35-year-old employee of a public relations company.

The crowd moved over to a tank guarding the northern approach to the square, where demonstrators said they were handing him over to the army.

Health Minister Ahmed Sameh Farid said 28 protesters suffered mostly minor wounds Friday and three more people died from injuries sustained in clashes in the square on Wednesday and Thursday, driving up the death toll from those two days to 11. The Tahrir clashes brought the number of deaths since protests began Jan. 25 to 109 people.

Officials have said about 900 people had been wounded in the two days of fighting around Tahrir.

Mohammed Awash, a 25-year-old computer science teacher, wore a plastic construction helmet tied to his head with a scarf.

"We'll be destroyed if we don't fight so hard," he said. "We made the lion angry. If we give up now, it's going to come back fiercer than it was before."

Across the square, people threw trash down the steps of the Sadat Metro station, where it piled up against metal gates that had been pulled shut, chained and barred with a timber from a construction site to make a jail for pro-Mubarak fighters captured in the rock battles.

Demonstrators said those captives had been taken away by the army too.

The military presence was heavy around the square. A lieutenant speaking flawless American English checked IDs at the first checkpoint on the west side of the Kasr el-Nil bridge. Across the bridge, soldiers with black riot helmets, bulletproof vests and Kalashnikovs with folding stocks stood behind razor-wire while hundreds of people filed through a narrow gantlet formed by dozens more soldiers.

Battered pieces of sheet metal that had been used to haul rocks and shield fighters from rains of stones lay abandoned on the ground.

Serious-looking young men in civilian clothes checked IDs and bags, separating women and men for quick pat downs.

Yet another civilian checkpoint, and the crowd dispersed into Tahrir Square.

A group of young bloggers gathered in an area under an ornate lamppost that protesters have come to call "upper-class corner."

Four words were spray-painted on the green metal gates of the shuttered Egyptrav tour company nearby. In English, it read "Facebook" and "Twitter." In Arabic, "Youth" and "Al-Jazeera."

Attorneys Ahmad Fathi, 47, and Osama el-Feyana, 43, strolled through the square together.

"The hairs on my arm are standing on end. I have goose bumps," Fathi said. "As lawyers we were always told we could say whatever we want but there was never any freedom. I owe a lot to the youths. They were able to move that barrier of fear and allow us to come here today."

The square was filled with members of Egypt's struggling middle-class, men who said they were educated as engineers and teachers but found themselves unable to support their families, or even find an apartment and get married. There was a heavy presence of men with the long beards and shaved upper lips of Salafis - ultra-conservatives preaching a return to the ways of early Muslims.

One was Gharib Ibrahim, a 35-year-old painter with worn shoes and a kaffiyeh wrapped around his head.

He said he had come to help turn Egypt into a country where he could have rights including "the ability to find a good job, the ability to get an apartment without having to know somebody who knows somebody."

Another was Alaa Mohammed, a 40-year-old religious studies teacher who showed the scars on his wrist from where, he said, security forces had hung him by a rope when he was jailed from 1994-2006 for what he said were political activities.

"They were just jailing Islamists," he said.

Sometimes, he said, electrodes were attached to his ears to deliver electric shocks.

"I challenge anyone to bear the torture of having electricity pulsed into your ears," he said. "Only Allah saved me."


Diaa Hadid contributed to this report.