Thousands of Egyptian Islamists Friday staged a
rally in Cairo in a show of support for President Mohammed Morsi
ahead of protests planned this month by the opposition to demand he
"Morsi is our president and no one else," the demonstrators chanted as they waved pictures of the president and packed the streets around a major mosque in Nasr City in eastern Cairo.
The rally participants were followers of Morsi's powerful Muslim Brotherhood and 16 other Islamist groups who had mostly been ferried by bus to the capital from several provinces.
Some people carried the Egyptian flag and other waved the black flag of jihad.
Abdul-Nasser Abdul-Sattar, a 42-year-old teacher from the northern city of Mansoura, said the turnout proved that Morsi is still popular.
"Look at these crowds," Abdul-Sattar said. "The presenters on Egyptian television are big liars. They are being paid to say Mohammed Morsi is hated, but this is the reality."
Pro-Morsi banners read, "No to demolition of legitimacy" and "For Egypt's sake, stay at home on June 30."
The rally came nine days before the opposition plans its own protests against Morsi. It accuses him of seeking to tighten the Muslim Brotherhood's hold on power.
Egypt is becoming increasingly tense in the run-up to June 30, which marks the completion of Morsi's first year in office.
The self-styled Tamarod, or Rebellion, protest group, backed by the main opposition parties, plans a massive sit-in June 30 outside the presidential palace in Cairo.
The protesters are to call for Morsi's resignation and early presidential elections.
In a recent interview, Morsi, who is Egypt's first democratically elected president, called the demands "absurd and illegal."
Morsi's supporters have vowed he would complete his four-year term, and some clerics have called the upcoming protests a "war on Islam."
One of the participants at Friday's rally said he believes nothing would happen on June 30.
"Today is important because all those people came to show support for President Morsi," said Ahmed Hosny, 52, who came from Mahalla, a city 100 kilometres north of Cairo. "June 30 will be an ordinary day. Nothing will happen. If the opposition has support, they can take part in the next elections."
Morsi's backers and opponents, meanwhile, clashed outside a mosque in Alexandria, Egypt's second largest city, the state-run newspaper al-Ahram reported.
Both sides threw stones before the opposition forced its rivals to take refuge in the mosque, the newspaper said. No casualties were reported.
Supporters and detractors of Morsi have held rival rallies in recent months that have occasionally descended into deadly clashes.
The opposition accuses Morsi of failing to fulfill the objectives of the popular revolution that brought him to power.
Morsi's supporters charge that the opposition is deliberately causing unrest on the streets to undercut the Islamist president's clout.
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