Clashes hit second university in Egypt's capital
CAIRO (AP) -- Egyptian police fired tear gas to disperse students protesting outside Cairo University in support of the country's ousted Islamist president Tuesday as unrest spread to a second college campus in the capital, a security official and student said.
Across town, students at the Islamic Al-Azhar University in eastern Cairo have clashed with security forces since Sunday as they rally in support of 20 of their peers who have been arrested and charged for protesting against the military-backed authorities.
Since the military removed President Mohammed Morsi from power in early July, Egypt's security forces have conducted a relentless crackdown against the ousted leader's Muslim Brotherhood, killing more than 1,000 of the fundamentalist group's supporters and rounding up most its leaders.
The campaign has largely succeeded in curbing near daily pro-Morsi protests. But universities - where the Brotherhood has long enjoyed a strong presence - have emerged as a key battleground in Egypt's political turmoil since the start of the academic year in September.
A day after violence and arrests at Al-Azhar University, students at Cairo University on Tuesday clashed with security forces after trying to march out of the sprawling campus toward a large intersection that links the school's grounds with a bustling commercial neighborhood, a security official said.
The official said the students lobbed plastic bags filled with water at security forces outside the university and chanted against the police and the military. Police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd, set up barbed wire to close off access to the university from the intersection and deployed more armored vehicles as reinforcements, the official said.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Hazem Tarek, a student leader at Cairo University, said hundreds of students went out to support their colleagues at Al-Azhar University, and were met with tear gas from the police. He said pitched street battles with the police broke out, and at least four students were injured by shotgun pellets.
Students at Cairo University also protested earlier this academic year.
At Al-Azhar, meanwhile, student spokesman Mahmoud Salah said the students organized a strike Tuesday in solidarity with university staff members who he said were beaten by security forces a day earlier.
Police prevented the students from leaving the campus, also lobbing tear gas at their marches. Female protesters on a separate campus of Al-Azhar later took to the streets. Video broadcast on Egyptian television stations showed police firing salvos of tear gas in streets surrounding the campus to disperse the crowd.
On Monday, clashes broke out at Al-Azhar as some 200 students staged a second consecutive day of protests. At least three security vehicles were damaged in the violence, and dozens of students were arrested.
Government officials accuse the Brotherhood of escalating its protests and fueling student action to derail a key vote expected next month on amendments to the constitution adopted under Morsi. The vote is to be followed by parliamentary and presidential elections.
The Brotherhood and Morsi allies denounce the amendments as "illegitimate." They also accuse the military-backed government of seeking to eradicate the group, and vow to bring leaders of the military coup to trial.