Police did not raid Al-Azhar University: Egypt's interior ministry

Ahram Online , Sunday 20 Oct 2013

Interior ministry says it used tear gas against pro-Morsi students after they blocked roads and rioted outside Al-Azhar University, denying television reports that police raided campus

 Al-Azhar University
Protesters gather amidst remnants of teargas smoke during clashes with riot police at Al-Azhar University in Cairo October 20, 2013 (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt's interior ministry denied Sunday its forces raided Al-Azhar University, saying police only fired teargas at Islamist students after they rioted outside the university gates and blocked roads around campus to traffic.

In a statement Sunday, the ministry said around 3,000 students supporting deposed Islamist President Mohamed Morsi blocked Al-Nasr Road and verbally assaulted riot police.

"Security forces tried for almost half an hour to lure them into opening the road, but they insisted on their position," the interior ministry statement recounted.

Several hundred students protested Sunday at Al-Azhar University's two Cairo campuses against what they called the "coup" that toppled Islamist president Morsi. At least seven students were arrested and a policeman was injured, according to security sources.

The prestigious Al-Azhar University belongs to Al-Azhar Institution, the highest authority of Sunni Islam.

Students shouted anti-police slogans, threw stones at forces stationed outside the university gates, and set fire to a rubbish bin outside the university gates, leading forces to respond with tear gas, added a statement carried on the interior ministry's official Facebook page.

A security source said TV footage broadcast on the pro-Muslim Brotherhood Qatar-based Al-Jazeera channel of security forces raiding the campus was "entirely untrue," according to the ministry statement.

Assistant Lecturer Osama Refaat who was present on campus at the time of the clashes told Ahram Online that neither side entered the university grounds and that classes were being held normally.

"Everything inside is entirely stable and there is no tension. I have been here for an hour and I haven't seen any fighting on campus," Refaat said.

Eyewitnesses told Ahram Arabic news website that calm had been restored in the area and traffic movement resumed after hours-long disruption.

Despite disorder in the first two days of studies at the university — the semester already delayed twice on security grounds — an official said there was no intention for further delay to classes, despite earlier statements by University President Osama El-Abed to the contrary.

"Studies will continue, even with the continuation of the demonstration," Al-Azhar Deputy President Ibrahim Hudhud said in television comments Sunday. "A small faction will not act against the interests of more than 400,000 students," he added.

Elsewhere in Cairo, tens of pro-Morsi students staged a protest at Cairo University to demand an end to the "military coup," with minor clashes reported.

Security forces have severely cracked down on Morsi's now-banned Muslim Brotherhood since his removal. Morsi and senior Brotherhood leaders have been detained on varied allegations, including inciting violence.

The political schism between opposing students has also led to recurrent clashes, causing numerous injuries and several arrests since the start of the new academic year in late September.

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