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Police clash with students in South Africa

Hundreds of students have clashed with security forces in Johannesburg during a protest for free higher education. Students threw rocks while police fired back with rubber bullets and tear gas.

The latest student protest over tuition fees and free higher education in South Africa descended into violence on Monday as hundreds of student protesters clashed with security forces at Johannesburg's University of the Witwatersrand, also known as Wits.

"The students started throwing sizable rocks that could have maimed or killed people," Wits said in a statement. Police responded by using stun grenades, tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets.

Südafrika Protest von Studenten und Ausschreitungen in Johannesburg (Reuters/S. Sibeko)

The protests are part of the "Fees Must Fall" campaign for free higher education in South Africa

"Hell broke out," said Jo Seoka, an Anglican bishop told the Associated Press. He said police had "militarized" the campus, and criticized security forces for not wearing IDs on their uniforms that would make them accountable.

Several people, including police, sustained minor injuries during the clashes, while two people were arrested, according to a university statement.

The protest hampered efforts on Monday to resume classes at the top-tier school after it had temporarily closed due to the rallies. Student leaders said they warned the university that demonstrations would take place should it resume lectures.

"We pleaded with the council of the university in the early hours of this morning to close down the academic program and call off the police," Wits student representative Fasiha Hassan told South African ENCA news.

"If they had called off police, we wouldn't be in this situation. There was no need for them to open fire."

The protests in Johannesburg are part of the  nationwide "Fees Must Fall" campaign about the cost of the country's universities, which are prohibitive for many black students.

rs/tj (AP, AFP, dpa)

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