Egyptian police storm Azhar University to quell student protests

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Egyptian security forces stormed al-Azhar University campus on Wednesday to quell student protests against the military-backed government.

It was the first time police forces have moved onto a campus since a 2010 court ruling.

The interior ministry ordered the police intervention following a request by the administration of the prestigious university, Al Arabiya correspondent reported.

Students supporting ousted President Mohammad Mursi have been holding regular protests on campus, sometimes prompting the suspension of classes.

During Wednesday’s protests students smashed windows, hurled chairs and covered walls of an administrative building with graffiti insulting the military backed interim government and Minister of Defense Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sissi.

“Sissi is a dog. Down, down with the lord of the army,” one protester scribbled, according to Reuters.

One police officer yelled: “Arrest anyone you see. Bring me those kids. If you see anyone just arrest them right away.”

Demonstrations at al-Azhar are a sensitive matter as the institution has historically taken the government side.

Islamists appear to have adopted a policy of choosing sensitive sites such as al-Azhar University to display their views because of that reason instead of taking to the streets in big numbers, Reuters reported.

Cairo University, located in the Giza district, is facing similar demonstrations. Earlier in October, scuffles broke out between supporters and opponents of Mursi.

Since the overthrow of Mursi on July 3 by the Egyptian army, Cairo has seen non-stop protests by his supporters demanding his reinstatement.

Protests which have usually led to clashes with security forces left at least 1,000 people killed, including members of the security forces.

Hundreds of Mursi’s supporters died when police forces launched a crackdown on pro-Mursi protest camps, Rabaa el-Adaweya and el-Nahda Square, on Aug. 14.

Terrorist attacks have also escalated in Egypt since that time, especially in the Sinai Peninsula.

The military-backed interim government and its supporters see the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group bent on destroying the Egyptian state. The Islamist movement denies the allegations, saying it is committed to peace and describing the government’s charges as part of a smear campaign against it.

On Wednesday, Essam al-Erian, deputy leader of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), was arrested from a residence in New Cairo where he had been hiding.

The FJP leader and 13 other leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood are expected to go on trial next week for charges related to the deaths of hundreds of demonstrators during clashes that happened last December in front of the Presidential Palace in the Heliopolis district.

(With AFP and Reuters)

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