Tests threatened by dissent, chaos
Riot police officers patrol near the campus of Al-Azhar University as students who are supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood rally on top of a building within the university’s campus that caught fire on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013, in Cairo.
Photo by REUTERS
CAIRO — Riot police moved into Egypt's main Islamic university on Saturday, firing tear gas and breaking up a strike by students that threatened to disrupt midterms. One student was killed in the melee, an administration building was torched and students fled from exam rooms.
Police say they entered eastern Cairo's Al-Azhar campus, the site of frequent clashes in recent weeks, and deployed around other Egyptian universities to prevent supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsy from intimidating other students trying to take the tests.
A statement from the Interior Ministry, in charge of the police, said students stormed several buildings on campus to “terrorize students and faculty.” It said some fired shotguns into the air and smashed furniture.
The ministry statement said that the attack prompted the police to move in to disperse the crowd, leading the students to set the Faculty of Commerce building on fire.
Pro-Morsy activists have called for an exam boycott but deny government claims that they threatened anyone.
Students at al-Azhar, a stronghold of Morsy supporters, have been protesting for weeks against his ouster and a subsequent state crackdown, which included designating the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization. The Brotherhood dismisses the label and has vowed to keep up its protests against Egypt-military backed authorities.
Human Rights Watch said that the designation was “politically motivated” and would affect the health and education services provided by the Muslim Brotherhood to thousands of beneficiaries.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Higher Education Hossam Eissa said authorities will go after those he said were financing non-peaceful protests on campuses, and accused the Brotherhood of seeking to derail exams.
“The aim of the terrorist Brotherhood group is to call off university exams,” he said. “The role of the government is to restore security especially before the referendum on the constitution.”
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