December 18, 2014
Clashes as Egyptian Islamists stage rally
Supporters of President Mohamed Mursi and his opponents hurled rocks at each other in Egypt's second city on the eve of a final vote on a new constitution shaped by Islamists.
Police fired tear gas as scores of opponents of the constitution and thousands of Islamists hurled rocks across a security cordon separating them near a mosque in Alexandria that was the focus for violence last week.
"God is great," Islamists chanted when the clash began.
The Islamists had gathered in support of an Islamic vision of Egypt's future a day before a second round of voting in a referendum on the basic law. Opposition supporters had also turned out as worshippers assembled for today's prayers.
Mursi and his Islamist allies back the draft constitution as a vital step in Egypt's transition to democracy almost two years after the fall of Hosni Mubarak.
The opposition says the draft, drawn up by an Islamist-dominated assembly, is a recipe for deepening divisions and more violence.
The Muslim Brotherhood called for the mass gathering in Alexandria to protest after a violent confrontation between Islamists and the liberal, secular opposition last week ended with a Muslim preacher besieged inside his mosque for 14 hours.
Rival factions had used clubs, knives and swords last week, but this time police kept the feuding sides apart, although witnesses saw several protesters and one police being helped away. Some protesters had head wounds.
The run-up to the final round of voting on a new constitution on Saturday has been marked by often violent protests that have cost at least eight lives. The first round on December 15 produced a "yes" vote that is expected to be repeated in the second round.
Lines of riot police cordoned off Alexandria's al-Qaid Ibrahim mosque, scene of last week's violence. Islamists chanted pro-Islamic slogans while a smaller group of opponents gathered nearby, chanting against Mursi, propelled to power in a June election by the Muslim Brotherhood.