Egypt gives police new powers as students clash

Adly Mansour and his government have given the Egyptian police new powers to control student protests

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Egypt’s interim rulers gave police on Thursday the power to enter university campuses to quell protests without seeking prior permission, after a student was killed in clashes.

Students who support the new military-installed authorities and those who oppose it have clashed regularly in Cairo and elsewhere since the army ousted Islamist president Mohammed Mursi on July 3.

The military-installed cabinet said police may now enter campuses “without seeking permissions in case of threats and to confront protests that could harm students.”

Previously, police had to obtain permission from the prosecutor general or university authorities before entering campuses or dormitories to deal with demonstrators or fighting.

Thursday’s move came after a student was killed overnight at an al-Azhar University dorm in Cairo’s Nasr City district, a security official and a medic said.

The student had been hit by birdshot in the chest and neck.

The clashes were between supporters and opponents of the new army-installed authorities, security officials said, adding that groups of students also confronted each other at Cairo University on Thursday.

Meanwhile, a court in the capital sentenced 38 al-Azhar University students to 18 months in prison for “participating in violence” at the campus in October, state new agency MENA reported.

The authorities are engaged in a crackdown on Mursi’s Islamist supporters in which more than 1,000 people have been killed since the middle of August and thousands more arrested.

Among initiatives announced by the cabinet on Thursday was boosting the powers of the police and military to help fight “terrorism.”

Islamist militants have stepped up attacks in the restive Sinai since Mursi’s ouster and have also targeted security forces outside the peninsula.

On Wednesday, a car bomb in the Sinai killed 11 soldiers and wounded 34, and another blast in Cairo wounded four policemen.

The Sinai attack was the deadliest in the region bordering Gaza and Israel since an August 19 ambush on a security convoy killed 25 police in the north Sinai town of Rafah.

And on Thursday, a police officer was shot dead north of Cairo while on a mission to arrest militants suspected of assassinating a senior security official on Sunday.

Captain Ahmed Samer Mahmoud was killed at dawn in an operation in the Nile Delta town of Qulubiya when a Special Forces team exchanged fire with militants, the interior ministry said.

The team was chasing “terrorist elements” wanted for Sunday’s murder of Lieutenant Colonel Mohamed Mabruk, it said.

Mabruk, an officer involved in the crackdown against Islamists and members of the Muslim Brotherhood to which Mursi belonged was shot dead in Cairo.

A Sinai-based group linked to Al-Qaeda, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, said its militants had killed him.

The group had previously claimed it bombed the interior minister’s convoy in a failed assassination attempt in September.

Also on Thursday a police officer was shot dead while on patrol in the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya, security officials said, adding that one of the two assailants had been arrested.

The cabinet also said it has decided to review recent citizenship offered to non-Egyptians, referring mainly to the nearly three years since long-time dictator Hosni Mubarak quit in February 2011.

The media has reported that Mursi’s government had stepped up efforts to grant Egyptian nationality to Palestinians staying in the country.

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