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Violence erupts at university in Morocco

Fighting between leftist and Islamist students at a university in Fez has left one student dead and led to calls for an end to violence on campuses
Rival student groups have clashed with each other in the south-west city of Fez in Morocco (AFP)

The funeral of a student killed in clashes between rival political groups at the Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University in the Moroccan city of Fez was held on Saturday.

Abderrahim Hasnaoui, 21, died in hospital on Thursday after being fatally injured in fighting between leftist and Islamist students at the university campus.

Clashes erupted after leftist students attempted to stop Islamist students from holding an event to discuss “Islamists, the left and democracy”, a journalist in Fez told the AFP.

Students described masked students wielding knives and swords, roaming the university in search of Islamist students.

“Masked people entered in on us carrying weapons and batons, shouting ‘Where are the brotherhood?'" said a student who asked to remain anonymous.

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22-year-old Abderrahim Hasnaoui

“I went outside and found him [Hasnaoui] lying on the ground, batons and swords falling upon him from all sides without mercy or compassion,” the student added.

The funeral was held in Hasnaoui’s home town of Errachidia, south-west Morocco. Over the past few days, students have held protests at universities across the country to display their anger at his death.

One protest was held at the University of Casablanca. Students also gathered in the central city of Marrakesh, while a Facebook group has been set up by students calling for an end to violence at universities in Morocco.

Violence is common at the Sidi Mohamed Abdellah University, often taking place between leftist and Islamist students, but fighting has also taken place between students and local police officers, said Samid Mohy, a student at the university.

“There has been a lot of fighting in the past year, not just between different student groups, but also with local police who react severely to all protests,” Mohy said.

“Fighting between students and the police causes a lot of trouble at universities all over Morocco,” he added.

A student was killed in clashes with the police at the university in January when students held a protest against high prices for food and accommodation. Mohammed El-Fizazi, 22, died in hospital of injuries sustained during fighting with the police.

The violence on Thursday took place between supporters of the Justice and Development Party and members of the Marxist Annahj Dimokrati (Democratic Way) party.

The Justice and Development Party has been in power in Morocco since they won elections in November 2011. A statement from the party condemned Hasnaoui’s death and said “dialogue is the only way to solve the dispute” between opposing groups on university campuses.

Local officials told the AFP four students suspected of involvement in the clashes were arrested late on Thursday.

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