Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi
Opponents of Egypt's president scuffled with his supporters on Friday during a demonstration that was billed as a test of Mohamed Mursi's popularity on the street but which managed to muster only modest numbers against his rule.
After months of turmoil and bloodshed, Egypt's streets have calmed since Mursi's June election that ended 60 years of rule by military men, a relief to Egyptians and the West, wary of instability in a nation that has a peace treaty with Israel, reports Reuters.
But Mursi now faces the giant task of rebuilding a shattered economy and delivering better living standards to a nation of 82 million where swathes still live in dire poverty.
Egyptians had been nervous that Friday's anti-Mursi protest, flagged for several weeks, could turn violent and security was tight around the presidential palace and some other sites.
In Cairo's Tahrir Square, rival groups of youths hurled stones and bottles at each other, staging running battles in side streets. Some wielded sticks and charged opponents. Dozens also scuffled in Ismailiya, east of Cairo, a witness said.
But scenes were quieter in other areas of Cairo where Mursi's opponents gathered, and total numbers across the capital and elsewhere were relatively modest, reaching 2,000 or so rather than the seas of people who turned to unseat Mubarak or gathered in other demonstrations since then.
Several liberal groups usually critical of Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood stayed away, including the April 6 youth movement that galvanized protests to oust Hosni Mubarak last year. Some said Mursi could not be judged just two months into office.
Activists behind the protest accuse Mursi of seeking to monopolise power after he wrested back prerogatives in August that the military council, which had ruled Egypt for a year and a half after Mubarak's fall, had sought to retain for itself.
"Wake up Egyptian people. Don't fall for the Brotherhood," said Mahmoud, in his 50s, addressing about 200 people in Tahrir Square. "Egypt is for all Egyptians, not only one group."
Many now want to give Mursi time to deliver and want to judge him at the ballot box, not on the street.
"Respectable democratic countries elect a leader and then give him time to prove himself," said Sabr Salah, 47, despite not being a Mursi backer. "We must give Mursi a chance because he won the election. We can vote him out again next time."
Violence in Tahrir flared when witnesses heard shots. The Health Ministry reported five people wounded in Tahrir, the state news agency said. The agency also reported a doctor at a temporary clinic in Tahrir said he treated four people including three with gunshot wounds who were taken to hospital nearby.
Elsewhere, police set up a cordon around the presidential palace to protect it from protesters gathered there. The army blocked a road to the Defence Ministry, where there had been clashes between protesters and troops this year.
"We must call for a revolution against the Brotherhood," said Maha Salem, wearing a Muslim veil, at a protest near Cairo's Nasser City. "They want to take over the country for themselves. Egypt is a civilian state not an Islamist one."
The organizers, among them opposition politician Mohamed Abou Hamed, want an investigation into the funding of the Brotherhood, repressed by Mubarak during his 30-year rule but which has dominated the political scene since he was toppled.