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Security firm at Egypt's universities suffers losses in Sunday violence

New security company contracted to secure public universities has been targeted this week by student protesters

Ahram Online , Monday 13 Oct 2014
Cairo uni
File photo: Security forces deployed outside of Cairo university (Photo: Mai Shaheen)
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Falcon, a private security firm tasked with guarding a dozen universities nationwide, says it suffered financial losses during protests at Cairo's Al-Azhar University this week.

Students at universities in and outside Cairo have been protesting since the start of the new academic year this week to denounce the revamped security measures as well as the detention of their fellow colleagues in past on-campus violence.

Dozens of students have been arrested in the last few days on rioting charges.

Sherif Khaled, executive and managing director of Falcon Group, said his firm suffered losses worth LE30,000 (around $4,500) on Sunday at Al-Azhar University alone.

Two of Falcon's metal detectors were smashed by students protesting on Al-Azhar's campuses, Khaled said.

Egyptian universities, a traditional stronghold of political activity, were hit by turmoil in the last academic year following the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood. Al-Azhar – the oldest Islamic university in the world – was one of the major rallying points and a scene of the fiercest clashes between student protesters and security forces.

Several students were killed in the clashes, and hundreds of others were arrested or handed jail terms on charges of violence.

The ministry of higher education's decision to contract the privately-owned Falcon firm as part of a plan to tighten security on campuses has sparked anxiety there may be a widening crackdown on student dissident, as officials have also recently banned protests or "political activities" at universities.

But Falcon's official dismissed such concerns, saying his guards are merely in charge of enforcing stricter security measures at university gates and monitoring student entry – without interfering or engaging in any clashes.

"We cannot take a couple of steps onto the university grounds. Our boundary is the gate, from outside," Khaled said. "[The guards] are not even equipped with a rubber wand."

"We have no role inside campuses. Our responsibility is restricted to checking students' IDs and barring the entry of any items that might be used in rioting," he said.

The company has installed new stationary metal and explosive detectors at gates around some 12 universities in a bid to tighten control on the entry of infiltrators or weapons and fireworks used in the violence.

The guards, who are only stationed outside the gates, were not engaged in clashes with students on Sunday, Khaled claimed, attributing the violence at Al-Azhar's Cairo campus and elsewhere to what he says is a plot to stir chaos on campuses.

"There are some who aim to provoke disturbances and hinder studying," he said.

Prosecutors on Monday ordered the detention of three university students for fifteen days over charges including rioting, disturbing public order and illegal assembly, Al-Ahram's Arabic news website reported.

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