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Islamists, opponents clash in northern Egypt

  • Associated Press
  • December 21, 2012 - 5:45 AM

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt - Clashes have broken out in northern Egypt between Islamist supporters and opponents of the country's highly contentious draft constitution.

The two sides hurled rocks and stones at each other on Friday in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, prompting police to fire tear gas to separate them.

The clashes add to the already tense political crisis in Egypt on the eve of the second leg of voting on the draft charter.

The Islamists had called for a massive rally outside the main mosque in the heart of Alexandria. It was not clear who started the fight.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Thousands of ultraconservative Islamists chanting "God is Great" have rallied in Egypt's second largest city, Alexandria, on the eve of the second leg of voting on Egypt's contentious constitution.

Security forces cordoned off streets leading to the Qaed Ibrahim mosque in the heart of the city on the Mediterranean coast, where thousands of Salafi Islamists staged a demonstration they called "the million-man rally to defend clerics and mosques."

The rally came in response to last week's violence, when well-known ultraconservative Salafi preacher Sheik Ahmed el-Mahalawi was trapped inside the mosque while his supporters battled opponents outside with swords and firebombs.

El-Mahalawi stirred anger with a sermon last Friday, when he denounced opponents of the Islamist-friendly constitution as "followers of heretics."

The referendum on the constitution is set for completion Saturday.

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