Egypt: 3 killed in clashes ahead of referendum

Islamists held rallies in several cities against the draft constitution

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Three people were killed in in Egypt on Friday in clashes between Islamist protesters and security forces four days before a planned referendum a controversial draft constitution.

A police officer said a street vendor was shot dead in clashes between Mursi’s Islamist supporters and civilian opponents in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria.

Police arrested the shooter and identified him as a member of Mursi’s banned Muslim Brotherhood, the officer said, adding that 25 demonstrators were also rounded up.

Two people were also killed in the canal city of Suez where clashes broke out between Brotherhood supporters, police and residents opposed to the Islamists, medics and security officials said.

The Islamists held rallies in several cities demanding the reinstatement of Mursi, who the military ousted in July following mass protests demanding his resignation.

The interior ministry said police arrested 169 suspected protesters countrywide.

The Islamists have organised near daily protests since Morsi’s overthrow, often clashing with police and civilian opponents.

Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood has called for a boycott of the Jan. 14 and 15 referendum, which is also seen by some as a vote on army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s popularity.

Sisi overthrew Mursi in July following mass protests against his rule and could yet run for president of the Arab world’s biggest country.

The Brotherhood says Sisi’s overthrow of Mursi constituted a coup which undermined democratic gains made since a 2011 popular uprising toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

The referendum is the first milestone in a political transformation that Sisi has said would lead to presidential and parliamentary elections and bring stability to Egypt, which has a peace treaty with Israel and controls the Suez Canal.

But Islamist militants have stepped up attacks on security forces since Mursi’s ouster, and street violence has continued, conditions which have decimated investment and tourism.

[With AFP and Reuters]