Egypt police clash with Islamist supporters

8:18 AM, Jan 3, 2014   |    comments
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CAIRO (AP) - Riot police clashed with supporters of Egypt's former Islamist president across the country on Friday, leaving two dead as the Muslim Brotherhood renewed calls to protest ahead of a key referendum later this month.

Fighting spread through heavily populated residential areas in several cities and provinces including Cairo, Giza, Ismailia, and Alexandria, as dozens of Brotherhood members and their supporters threw rocks at security forces who responded with water cannons and tear gas.

Black smoke hung in the air as protesters burnt tires and threw Molotov cocktails and fireworks at black-clad security forces. A number of police vehicles were set on fire. State television reported one person was killed in the city of Fayoum, south of Cairo, and another in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia.

Such scenes have been recurrent since the July 3 ouster of Mohammed Morsi by a military coup, which came after millions of anti-Islamist protesters demonstrated to demand his resignation.

The numbers of those hitting the street in support of the Brotherhood - Egypt's most organized political group - have dwindled dramatically over the past months after the military-backed interim government launched a crackdown. Hundreds were killed when authorities broke up protest camps, thousands of Brotherhood members have been arrested and scores sent to trial.

As a result the group shifted tactics, relying more on women and student supporters as it vowed to continue protests ahead of two main events: the second session of Morsi's trial on Jan. 8 on charges killing of protesters, and the upcoming referendum on a new constitution drafted by secular-leaning panels on Jan. 14 and Jan. 15.

The interim government considers the vote a milestone in a transition plan it laid out ahead of Morsi's ouster, which envisions presidential and parliamentarian elections in the coming months. The draft charter is an amended version of the 2012 constitution drafted by an Islamist-dominated panel under Morsi, which was suspended during the coup.

Also on Friday, three explosions targeted a military and police convoy in volatile northern Sinai, wounding four soldiers, a security official said. He added that the explosions, one of which was from a roadside bomb, hit near the town of Sheikh Zuweid, close to the border with the Gaza Strip.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

(Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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