Three killed as violence flares in Egypt

Islamists protest against the military-backed authorities and the draft constitution

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Egyptian security forces shot dead three protester on Friday during mass nationwide rallies against the military-backed authorities and a draft constitution that was voted on this week in a popular referendum.

Islamists supporters of ousted President Mohammad Mursi held rallies in Cairo’s Giza, al-Haram, and Helwan districts. They also demonstrated in Fayoum and Suez two days the country’s second constitution in three years was voted on.

Security forces fired tear gas to break up the rallies in Giza and Alf Maskan and Nasr City in Cairo.

Security and army vehicles shut down the main squares in the capital with heavy presence seen around the iconic Tahrir Square, Al Arabiya reporter said.

The demonstrations came as a Brotherhood-led coalition called on supporters to protest against the draft constitution and to commemorate the coming third anniversary of Egypt’s 2011 revolution that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Some protests turned violent. In Suez, protesters threw gasoline bombs, fired birdshot and hurled rocks while police responded with tear gas. Protesters set three motorbikes on fire and soldiers deployed to confront the demonstrators, a security official said, the Associated Press reported.

In Alexandria, police said they arrested 17 protesters and confiscated locally-made guns and gasoline bombs. Police arrested 39 protesters in Cairo, where clashes struck the densely populated neighborhood and Brotherhood stronghold of Imbaba, among other locations, Egypt’s state news agency MENA reported.

The security officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren’t authorized to speak with journalists.

The Health Ministry said one person was killed in the city of Fayoum and two others in Cairo. A dozen others were injured nationwide, the ministry said.

The protests came after millions of Egyptians voted in a two-day referendum on a new constitution, an amended version of the charter drafted under Mursi in 2012.

Interim authorities consider the constitution a key step of the country’s political future and a transition to democracy that would improve the image of Egypt in front of the world. The plan calls for coming parliamentary and presidential election.

Mursi supporters have held near-daily protests since a popularly backed military coup toppled him July 3. The Brotherhood, which considers the military-backed interim government illegitimate, said they boycotted the referendum and claimed authorities forged the results. Unofficial results suggest an overwhelming majority of voters supported the new constitution.

“Let them fool themselves. ... Whatever is based on falsehood is false,” a Brotherhood statement Thursday said.

Meanwhile Friday, French President Francois Hollande said Egypt “should look to Tunisia’s example in building a democracy ... finding a democratic path where the voice of everyone is respected.

The two countries led the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011. While Islamists dominated Tunisia’s post-revolution elections, as in Egypt, they had a better record of compromising with secular opposition parties.

[With AP]

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