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Government officials tell Al Jazeera 55 students arrested in anti-government protests
October 20, 20131:00PM ET
Egyptian security forces fired bird-shot shotgun shells and tear gas to disperse hundreds of students protesting against the government at Cairo's Al-Azhar University, the Ministry of Interior said Sunday.
Riot police used force in an attempt to prevent supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi from marching to Rabaa al Adawiya Square, the site of a protest camp that was destroyed in a deadly crackdown by security forces two months ago, a witness said.
"Rabaa Square is completely off-limits," a security source said. "Protesters are not allowed to move inside it."
The crowd of hundreds were students from Al-Azhar University, the historic seat of Sunni Muslim learning. They threw rocks at riot police stationed outside the gates of the university, and police threw them back.
The Ministry of Interior told Al Jazeera that 55 students were arrested during the clashes.
Authorities have cracked down on activities of the Muslim Brotherhood since a popular movement, backed by the country’s military, ousted Morsi on July 3. The Brotherhood, Morsi’s base of support, wants him reinstated as president.
"We want the return of legitimate rule to Egypt, we want the return of President Morsi," said Mohamed Magdi, a commerce student. "We are unarmed students. We just approached them and said 'you are our police' and then they attacked us."
The students had been protesting for the second day on campus in support of Morsi. Graffiti scrawled on university buildings condemned General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the army chief who toppled Morsi, as a murderer and traitor.
The army rejects allegations that it deposed Morsi in a coup and says it was merely responding to the will of the people.
The government refers to the Brotherhood as "terrorists" and does not distinguish between the movement and Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in the lawless Sinai Peninsula who carry out almost daily attacks on security forces.
Following weeks of anti-government protests by the group, the country’s interim government outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood – arresting most of its leaders in the process. The group’s leaders, including Morsi, have been charged with such crimes as inciting or taking part in violence.
Nevertheless, Morsi’s supporters say they will continue to protest until the army-backed government falls – though demonstrations are now much smaller than they once were.