Student killed in clashes at Cairo campus

Al-Azhar University burns during protests by Muslim Brotherhood supporters. Picture: Getty
Al-Azhar University burns during protests by Muslim Brotherhood supporters. Picture: Getty
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A STUDENT was killed and scores more were arrested ­yesterday when supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood clashed with Egyptian police at a Cairo university campus.

The dead student was named as Khaled El-Haddad, a supporter of the Brotherhood, which was designated as a terrorist organisation by the military-backed government last week. He was named by student activist Shaimaa Mounir.

State-run newspaper Al-­Ahram said security forces fired tear gas to disperse pro-Brotherhood students at Al-Azhar ­University said to be preventing their classmates from entering university buildings to take exams.

Protesters threw stones at police and set tyres on fire to counter the tear gas.

Al-Ahram quoted a health ministry official as saying that one student had been killed and five injured.

The violence followed clashes across Egypt on Friday in which at least five people died.

Two college buildings were set on fire in yesterday’s violence. State TV broadcast footage of black smoke billowing from the faculty of commerce building and said “terrorist students” had also set alight the agriculture faculty.

Police arrested 101 students for possession of makeshift weapons, including petrol bombs, the state news agency reported, which said calm had been restored. Scheduled exams had gone ahead later in the day.

Al-Azhar , a respected centre of Sunni Islamic learning, has for months been the scene of protests against what the Brotherhood terms a military coup that deposed Islamist Mohamed Morsi as president after a year in office.

Separately, a prosecutor ordered the continued detention of seven Al-Azhar students arrested during clashes on Thursday.

Judicial sources said the students are being investigated on suspicion of belonging to a terrorist organisation. The students are the first to be detained by order of the prosecutor for alleged membership of a terrorist organisation since the Brotherhood was labelled as such on Christmas Day.

That move increased the penalties for dissent against a government installed after the army overthrew Morsi in July, following mass protests against his rule.

The widening crackdown against the movement that was elected after the toppling of veteran leader Hosni ­Mubarak in 2011 has increased tension in a country suffering the worst internal strife of its modern history following Morsi’s removal. He was the first freely elected president in Egypt’s history.

The army-backed government appears intent on clamping down on dissent ahead of a referendum next month on a new constitution, a step the government says will pave the way for parliamentary and presidential ­elections.

Thousands of Brotherhood members have been arrested; more than 250 were arrested on Friday alone, charged with being members of a terrorist organisation.

Analysts say the government decision points to the influence wielded by hawks in the security services.

Some officials, including interior minister Mohamed Ibrahim, were appointed by Morsi but sided with the army and have been key players in the security crackdown since he was ousted.

Human Rights Watch said yesterday that the government’s designation of the Brotherhood as a terrorist group was “politically driven” and intended to end all of the movement’s activities.

Sarah Leah Whitson, of the New York-based rights group, said: “By rushing to point the finger at the Brotherhood without investigations or evidence, the government seems motivated solely by its desire to crush a major opposition movement.”

A conservative estimate puts the overall death toll since Morsi’s detention at more than 1,500 people.

The government has not provided evidence linking the Brotherhood to the recent attacks on security forces and state institutions.

Authorities accused the Brotherhood of carrying out a suicide attack on a police station that killed 16 people on Tuesday, although reponsibility for it was claimed by a radical faction based in the Sinai Peninsula.

An adviser to interim president Adli Mansour said in comments published yesterday that he believed Egypt would not return to a state of emergency even if the violence ­continued. Authorities lifted the state of emergency in November, three months after the army enforced the measures amid the turmoil that followed its overthrow of Morsi.

Mustafa Hijazi told London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper that the designation of the Brotherhood as a terrorist group was not political.

“Instead, it is the use and application of existing laws,” he was quoted as saying.

Under the anti-terrorism law dating back to the presidency of Mubarak, those convicted can be jailed for life. Authorities said last week that the movement’s leaders could face the death sentence.