Thousands surrounded the Al-Qaed Ibrahim Mosque in Alexandria on Friday night, saying that Salafis had escaped inside the mosque after firing at protesters during clashes earlier in the day.
Fighting had erupted earlier between supporters of President Mohamed Morsy and their opponents around the Al-Qaed Ibrahim Mosque area after hundreds staged a protest against the constitutional referendum. Protesters said Morsy’s insistence on holding the referendum before reaching national consensus on the draft was a “challenge to the people’s will.”
Inside the mosque, Sheikh Ahmad al-Mahalawy warned of "blood bathes if police do not intervene." He warned that his followers will have to disperse protesters if police fail to do so, adding that many of his supporters called and suggested help, but till then, he chose not to resort to them.
"Differences of opinion are respected. But the house of God should not be besieged like this," Mahalawy was heard as saying through the mosque's loudspeakers.
Nassar al-Abd, head of investigations in Alexandria, called on protesters to leave, telling them that none of those who fired at them earlier in the day are inside the mosque. But protesters said that Salafis inside the mosque are ready to wage an attack against them and that the Facebook page of Hazemoun, the supporters of Salafi preacher and former presidential candidate Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, warned of "waging Jihad" against them.
Nineteen people have been wounded in the clashes so far, said ambulance authority head Mohamed Sultan. Six were taken to the hospital, and 13 received medical attention on site, he said. Three cars were also set ablaze during the fighting.
During the earlier demonstration, protesters chanted: "The people want to bring down the regime," and "I am not an infidel, down with the rule of the supreme guide,” referring to Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie.
They raised banners that read: "The people want to try Morsy," "The revolution continues," and "The Constituent Assembly is void, and the constitution is sectarian."
The protesters distributed leaflets that rejected the constitution draft. The leaflets included 10 articles labeled as "mines,” saying that to have such a constitution after the revolution was a "disaster."
"[These articles] suppress freedoms and give absolute powers to the president," the leaflets read. It added that the draft constitution does not protect social rights because it does not commit the government to achieve social welfare, equality, social justice and a fair distribution of income.
However, a pro-Morsy atmosphere reigned inside the mosque where the Friday prayers were held.
"The media deceives citizens and claims that the majority are against the president, and that President Mohamed Morsy has but few days in power, after which he will leave," Mahalawy said earlier in the mosque during the Friday prayer.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm