Heavy clashes in Egypt’s Alexandria over referendum, injuries and arrests reported (PHOTOS, VIDEO)
Alexandria, Egypt’s second largest city, was engulfed in violence after over 2,000 people rallied around a central mosque in support of the draft constitution. The document is backed by Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, who went ahead with a referendum on the national charter despite the recent unrest in the country.
Prominent preacher Ahmed Mahalawy urged Alexandria worshippers to vote 'Yes' in the constitutional referendum, saying it would bring stability, reports Ahram Online.
This provoked protest from opponents of the draft document, fueling the already volatile situation. Several cars were torched while supporters and opponents of Morsi hurled stones at each other. The fighting slowly spread from the mosque where Friday prayers were held to main roads.
Security forces had to be deployed to the scene. At least four men were arrested and scores of knives were confiscated. Nineteen people were injured in the scuffles, the Associated Press reports.
Egypt will vote on the constitution on December 15 and on December 22. The document has split the country as The Muslim Brotherhood, the most influential religious group in Egypt, made certain that the proposed national charter cites Sharia law as the basic moral guide for the country. Egypt's opposition has slammed the draft as highly divisive. They also fear the new document might take Egypt off its more or less secular course.
Also escalating tensions in recent times was President Morsi’s November 22 decree that granted him nearly absolute powers. The move triggered violent nationwide protests across Egypt. Demonstrators demanded the decree be rescinded and the draft consitution be revised. Up to nine people have died in clashes between Morsi supporters and opponents, events which nearly resulted in the cancelation of the referendum.
After an aggressive assault on the presidential palace in Cairo last week, Morsi was forced to turn to the military to bring back order. Tanks were deployed in the capital, while over 120,000 soldiers joined some 130,000 police to maintain security throughout the country until the results of the referendum are known.
Supporters of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi (above) clash with anti-Morsi protesters to prevent them from entering a mosque in Alexandria December 14, 2012 (Reuters/Stringer)
An anti-Morsi protester (in green) and riot police stop a Morsi supporter (R) after surrounding him during clashes in Alexandria December 14, 2012. (Reuters/Stringer)
Protesters destroy cars belonging to supporters of President Mohamed Morsi during clashes in Alexandria December 14, 2012. (Reuters/Stringer)
Protesters destroy a car belonging to supporters of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi during clashes in Alexandria December 14, 2012. (Reuters/Stringer)
Anti-Morsi protesters shout slogans in front of burning cars during clashes with supporters of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, in Alexandria December 14, 2012 (Reuters/Stringer)
Protesters destroy a car belonging to supporters of President Mohamed Morsi during clashes in Alexandria December 14, 2012. (Reuters/Stringer)
Anti-Morsi protesters run in front of burning cars during clashes with supporters of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi in Alexandria December 14, 2012. (Reuters/Stringer)