CAIRO: Riot police moved into Egypt’s main Islamic university Saturday, firing tear gas and breaking up a strike by students that threatened to disrupt midterms. One student was killed in the melee, an administration building was torched and students fled from exam rooms.
Police say they entered eastern Cairo’s Al-Azhar campus, the site of frequent clashes in recent weeks, and deployed around other Egyptian universities to prevent supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi from intimidating other students trying to take the tests.
Pro-Morsi activists have called for an exam boycott but deny government claims that they threatened anyone.
Students at Al-Azhar, a stronghold of Morsi supporters, have protested for weeks against his ouster and a subsequent state crackdown, which this week saw his Muslim Brotherhood group declared a terrorist organization. The Brotherhood dismisses the label and has vowed to keep up its protests against Egypt-military backed authorities.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Higher Education Hossam Eissa said authorities will go after those he said were financing nonpeaceful protests on campuses, and accused the Brotherhood of seeking to derail exams.
“The aim of the terrorist Brotherhood group is to call off university exams,” he told the state news agency MENA. “The role of the government is to restore security especially before the referendum on the constitution.”
The government is intensifying its crackdown on Brotherhood and Morsi supporters ahead of a Jan. 14-15 constitutional referendum they see as a milestone in the transition plan. Authorities fear Morsi supporters would seek to derail the key vote, through protests or by violent means.
Professors and security officials accused protesting students on Saturday of blocking entrances to classes and harassing students as they made their way into the campus.