By Maggie Michael and Hamza Hemdawi
The Associated Press
CAIRO — Egyptian anti-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 set up a sprawling protest camp that security forces raided in August.
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.
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 July 3 after millions took to the streets to demand he step down. Since then, Cairo has seen non-stop 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 on a group of people at a Coptic church holding a wedding in Cairo, 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, which happened in Cairo’s Waraa neighborhood.
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 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.