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LUSAKA (AFP) — Armed police in Zambia shot and seriously injured two university students in an attempt to disperse a violent demonstration at their campus, police said Friday.

Two students were shot by stray bullets while a riot police officer was badly beaten by irate University of Zambia students who were protesting against the government’s refusal to increase their meal allowances, police spokesman Bonny Kapeso said.

“The two were shot by stray bullets. They are currently in hospital receiving treatment,” Kapeso said.

He described their condition as critical.

Several hundreds of students, for the second time within a week, staged violent protests and stoned vehicles in the nearby roads in order to press for an increase in meal allowances.

Kapeso said police used teargas to disperse the students who also resorted to stoning riot police officers who were deployed at the campus in the upmarket surbub of Kalundu.

Last Friday, students staged similar protests but were quickly pushed back to their campus by riot police officers who had been deployed to keep vigil at the university.

Some students were arrested but the police have not said how many.

Similar protests also took place at the Copperbelt University last week, another state-run institution, where the government provides free bursaries to students who cannot afford to pay fees.

Student riots over low government funding levels of the two state-run universities have become increasingly common.

The government has said it plans to stop free bursaries offered to poor students.