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Egypt

Violence in Cario ahead of mass protests

At least nine people have been hurt after being fired on by gunmen in Cairo's Tahrir Square, according to Egyptian media. The attack preceded planned mass protests against the country's new draft constitution.

The attack happened in the early hours of Tuesday morning, Egyptian media reported.

"The assailants entered the [Tahrir Square] from the Abdel-Moneim Riyad Street and Qasr Al Nil openings and proceeded to shoot protesters with pellet guns and throw Molotov cocktails at them," state newspaper Al-Ahram reported.

The newspaper said a doctor who runs a makeshift clinic in the square reported injuries that included pellet bullet wounds in the arms and feet. One person suffered a head wound.

Private newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm reported that many protesters camped out in the square were awakened by the noise and chanted "The people want the downfall of the regime" - a common phrase used during the uprising that toppled longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak in February last year.

Mass protests Tuesday

The violence came ahead of mass demonstrations planned for Tuesday. Leftists, liberals and other opposition groups have called for a march on the presidential palace in opposition to a December 15 referendum on Egypt's controversial, recently-released draft constitution.

The document, created by the Islamist-dominated constitutional assembly, has been criticized for undermining the rights of women and religious minorities, and for weakening the independent judiciary.

Seven people were killed and hundreds more wounded last week in protests against the draft constitution as members of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood - who supported Morsi in his June election - and opposition members clashed.

The military surrounded the palace with tanks and concrete barricades. On Monday, Morsi granted the armed forces police powers during the referendum, including the ability to arrest civilians.

dr/msh (Reuters, dpa, AFP, dapd)