Islamists clash with police at Cairo school

AFP and Reuters, CAIRO

Sun, Dec 29, 2013 - Page 6

Student supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood yesterday stormed a faculty building at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University where exams were being taken and set it on fire, security officials said.

The students entered the commerce faculty building during an exam and set it alight before police and security forces members burst in and fired tear gas to disperse the protesters, the officials said.

A police official said 60 of the students were arrested after the fire on the first two floors of the building was brought under control.

The students were trying to stop the exams, which started yesterday, as part of their protest against the military’s overthrow of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi in July.

They have regularly clashed with police at the university campus.

The violence comes a day after three people were killed in clashes and 265 arrested across Egypt in a government crackdown on Brotherhood demonstrations.

A student activist said that a supporter of the Brotherhood, designated earlier this week as a terrorist organization by the government, had been killed, although a security source denied this.

State-run newspaper Al-Ahram said the clashes began when security forces fired teargas to disperse pro-Brotherhood students who were preventing their classmates from entering university buildings to take exams. Protesters threw rocks at police and set tires on fire to counter the teargas.

State TV broadcast footage of black smoke billowing from the faculty of commerce building and said “terrorist students” had set the agriculture faculty building on fire as well.

Al-Azhar, a respected center of Sunni Islamic learning, has for months been the scene of protests against what the Brotherhood calls a “military coup” that deposed the former Islamist president after a year in office.

Shaimaa Mounir, a member of the pro-Brotherhood Students Against the Coup movement, said that Khaled El-Haddad died of a wound, though it was not clear whether he had been hit by birdshot or another kind of ammunition.

It was not immediately possible to confirm the student’s account and a security source denied there had been any deaths.

The violence followed a day of clashes across the country that left five people dead.

Supporters of the Brotherhood took to the streets on Friday after the government designated the Islamist group a terrorist body. The move increases the penalties for dissent against the government installed after Morsi’s ouster.

The government has said the violence will not derail a political transition plan whose next step is a referendum on a new constitution set to be held next month.