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Clashes during referendum protests in Egypt kill 2

January 17, 2014

CAIRO (AP) — Clashes between supporters of Egypt’s toppled president and security forces killed at least two people Friday, authorities said, as Islamist demonstrators held scattered protests against this week’s constitutional referendum.

Elections officials will announce results of the referendum Saturday after millions of Egyptians voted on the new constitution, an amended version of one drafted under toppled President Mohammed Morsi in 2012.

Unofficial results suggest voters overwhelmingly supported the new charter in an election seen as legitimizing the military-backed interim government and military chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who already is being named as a possible presidential candidate.

After Friday prayers, protesters backing Morsi and his outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group marched in Cairo and other provinces. The demonstrations came as a Brotherhood-led coalition called on supporters to protest against the draft constitution and to commemorate the coming anniversary of Egypt’s 2011 revolution that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Some protests quickly turned violent. In Suez, eastern Egypt, Fayoum and Cairo, protesters threw gasoline bombs, fired birdshot and hurled rocks while police responded with tear gas, officials said.

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 Interior Ministry said police arrested 123 protesters across the country.

The Health Ministry said two people were killed in Cairo and Fayoum. It was not clear if they were protesters or residents. Ten others were injured nationwide, the ministry said.

Morsi 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 election results.

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

The Brotherhood, recently declared a terrorist organization by the interim government, has seen its influence wane drastically since the coup. On Friday, those in an Egyptian engineers’ union voted to withdrawal their support from Brotherhood members serving as their leader and on their board. A recent doctors’ union elections also pushed out Brotherhood members.

Meanwhile in the volatile Sinai Peninsula, militants blew up a natural gas pipeline connected to cement factories in a village called el-Riysan, a security official said. He said there were no casualties.

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

Gas pipelines have come under attack several times since the 2011 downfall of Mubarak led to a fracturing of Egypt’s security agencies. Suicide bombings have spiked and spilled into the capital and Nile Delta cities since Morsi’s ouster. An al-Qaida-inspired group called Ansar Beit al-Maqdis has claimed responsibility for most of those attacks.

Update hourly