Renewed clashes at Egypt's Al-Azhar UniversityDecember 9, 2013 @ 6:42 am
CAIRO (AP) - Egyptian police chased students of an Islamic university around their campus Monday, arresting dozens and firing tear gas after protesters set security vehicles on fire, the interior ministry said.
It was the second consecutive day of protests by students of Al-Azhar University, who have been holding regular demonstrations since the start of the academic year in September against the military's ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in July. The rallies have frequently deteriorated into clashes with police.
Sunday's protests were fuelled by the referral to trial of 21 university students on charges of rioting and storming the office of the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar mosque weeks ago.
Last month, 12 students were sentenced to 17 years and fined for participating in protests and clashes on the campus.
The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest Islamist group and the one from which Morsi hails, has organized regular protests since his overthrow including near daily marches on campuses.
The group and other Morsi allies continue to oppose the military chief who led the popularly backed coup against Morsi, as well as the current government. The Brotherhood demands that Morsi be restored to power and that military leaders be put on trial.
In a statement Monday, a Brotherhood-led group hailed student protests at Al-Azhar and elsewhere, calling them the "pulse of the revolution and its mainstay toward deliverance."
The group called for major protests on Tuesday in support of the student protests.
The political arm of the Brotherhood, the Freedom and Justice Party, said the student protests represent a daily "challenge" to the current authorities, accusing them of waging a "war of annihilation" against Al-Azhar students.
The party said the crackdown "will not prevent the will of Egyptians from renewing the revolution of this great people" on the anniversary of the 2011 uprising next month.
The Interior Ministry, responsible for the police, said about 200 students had blocked the streets Monday outside the university campus _ a major thoroughfare in eastern Cairo, and pelted police with rocks and firebombs, damaging at least three police vehicles and injuring policemen.
Protesters retreated to the campus after police fired tear gas and kept up their rioting there, damaging staff cars and other university properties, the ministry said in its statement.
The head of university security, Mahmoud Subeiha, told Egypt's private CBC TV that he asked the police to enter the campus Monday to put down the protests.
The head of the university, Osama el-Abd told the same station that the protesting students had set some trees on fire and attacked staff. He said that despite the unrest, classes will not be disrupted.
Students were not immediately available for comment. A Brotherhood student organizer speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not on campus but was in touch with other inside said tens of students were injured by shotgun pellets.
He confirmed that the students set a police vehicle on fire, saying the force was chasing students inside the campus to arrest them.
Police spokesman Hani Abdel-Latif told CBC that 58 students were arrested. Abdel-Latif accused the Brotherhood of seeking to destabilize the country, and to derail the political road map in effect since Morsi's ouster.
The first key step on the road map is a referendum on the amendments to the Islamist-drafted constitution, expected within a month.
"They want to create a crisis," Abdel-Latif said of the Brotherhood. "They are trying to provoke the police and residents to create violence."
Authorities have cracked down on Morsi supporters since last summer's coup, widening a net of arrests and legal prosecution to include senior leaders as well as students and protesters.
The crackdown has recently broadened to include other non-Islamist critics of the current authorities, and a new protest law was passed last month that tightly restricts public gatherings and increases penalties for violators.
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
Niners Edge Seahawks
Late field goal lifts San Francisco past the Seahawks 19-17
Pot for Pets
This pot has gone to the dogs, and cats
The Holiday Map
Find lights, Santa photos, tree farms & seasonal events with our holiday map
Please login below with your Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Disqus account. Existing MyNorthwest account holders will need to create a new Disqus account or use one of the social logins provided below. Thank you.