Police tear gas students in Cairo

Campus at center of new protest

Egyptian students threw stones at riot police near Al-Azhar University in Cairo on Sunday during an antimilitary protest.
Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images
Egyptian students threw stones at riot police near Al-Azhar University in Cairo on Sunday during an antimilitary protest.

CAIRO — Egyptian riot police fired tear gas Sunday at hundreds of supporters of the country’s ousted Islamist president, besieging them inside a prestigious Muslim institution after stone-hurling protesters cut off a main road.

Sunday’s clashes marked the second day of unrest at Al-Azhar University, Sunni Islam’s most prominent center of learning. Many supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood are students at Al-Azhar, a stronghold of the group.

The campus is also near where Islamists had a sprawling protest camp that security forces raided in August, leaving hundreds dead and sparking days of unrest.


The students’ protest started with a march inside campus, where protesters hurled stones at the administrator’s offices, smashing windows and breaking doors, said Ibrahim el-Houdhoud, deputy head of the university. He told satellite news channel Al-Jazeera Mubashir Misr that he warned protesters against leaving campus and clashing with security forces.

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The protesters, however, ignored the advice, marching out of the main gates to hold ‘‘prayers for the dead,’’ honoring students killed in earlier clashes between security forces and protesters in July.

The protests come amid heated debate over a new law that would place tougher restrictions on demonstrators, which includes imposing heavy fines and possible jail time on violators.

Morsi was overthrown by the military on July 3 after millions took to the streets to demand that he step down. Since then, Cairo has seen nonstop demonstrations by his supporters demanding his return. A military-backed crackdown has left hundreds dead and seen thousands arrested.

Ousting Morsi escalated militant attacks in Egypt, especially in the volatile Sinai peninsula. Egypt’s interior minister escaped an assassination attempt when a car bomb targeted his convoy near his residence in Cairo last month.


There also have been attacks against Coptic Christian churches. On Sunday night, masked gunmen on motorcycles opened fire in Cairo on a group of people at a Coptic church holding a wedding, killing a man, a woman, and an 8-year-old girl, according to a statement from the Interior Ministry. The ministry did not offer a motive for the shooting.

Egypt’s official news agency MENA also reported that two members of Central Security Forces were injured Sunday when their bus came under attack near the border town of Rafah in northern Sinai. Militants attacked the bus with automatic weapons and fled the scene. The soldiers were heading to their camp in Rafah.

In a separate development, Egypt’s official news agency reported Sunday that dozens of Egyptian workers held by gunmen in Libya have been freed after days of negotiations.

MENA quoted Mohammed Abu Bakr, Egypt’s ambassador in Tripoli, as saying that the Egyptian workers had been released after being held by militiamen in Ajdabiya, some 480 miles southeast of Tripoli.

The abductors had demanded the release of detained relatives in Egypt as a precondition to free the hostages.


Abu Bakr told MENA that the release was the result of ‘‘successful’’ negotiations. He did not say whether authorities in Egypt responded to kidnappers’ demands.

Libyan security officials earlier said that about 200 Egyptian drivers were detained by the militia. Egyptian officials put the number at 74.