Egyptians at odds throw improvised weapons and rocks

Supporters of Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi clash with anti-Mursi protesters outside the Egyptian presidential palace on 5 December 2012 in Cairo, Egypt. Islamist supporters of Egypt's President Mohammed Mursi chased opposition protesters away from the presidential palace, as the vice president said a vote on a controversial charter would go ahead as planned. (Photo: AFP - Gianluigi Guercia)

Published Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Supporters and opponents of Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi lobbed Molotov cocktails and rocks at each other on Wednesday as their standoff turned violent near the presidential palace in Cairo.

Bloodied protesters were seen being carried away as gunshots could be heard and the fierce political rivals torched cars and set off fireworks, AFP reporters said.

Supporters of Mursi continue attack anti-Mursi protesters outside the presidential palace with eyewitness reports of militia-like men bloodying demonstrators and women in particular.

Pro-Mursi supporters can be seen taking down the opposition's tents in the below video.

At the heart of the battle is a decree issued by Mursi expanding his powers and allowing him to put to a referendum a disputed constitution drafted by Islamists.

The November 22 constitutional declaration has sparked deadly protests and strikes, but Vice President Mahmud Mekki said a December 15 referendum on the charter would go ahead as planned.

Around the presidential palace in the upscale neighborhood of Heliopolis, protesters from both camps fled into side streets.

Skirmishes broke out after thousands of Islamists rallying to the call of the Muslim Brotherhood bore down on the presidential palace, tearing down opposition tents and chanting that they would "cleanse" the area.

The two sides threw stones at each other before the secular-leaning opposition protesters, who had besieged the palace in their tens of thousands on Tuesday, escaped into side streets before regrouping.

Prominent opposition leader and former UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei said Mursi bore "full responsibility" for the violence and that his regime was losing more legitimacy every day.

Tens of thousands of opposition protesters had encircled the palace on Tuesday demanding that Mursi go, opposing the charter and with some calling for a boycott of the referendum.

Islamist rallies converged outside the palace, where hundreds of anti-Mursi protesters had spent the night, forcing the opposition to leave the area.

"They (Islamists) attacked us, broke up our tents, and I was beaten up," said Eman Ahmed, 47. "They accused us of being traitors."

Protesters from the male-dominated Islamist marches harassed television news crews, trying to prevent them from working.

"I'm here to defend democracy. The president was elected by the ballot box. The opposition protesters ran away as they can't face our strength," said Wael Ali, a 40-year-old Mursi supporter with a long beard.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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