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Egyptian vigilantes beat, hang 2

| Sunday, March 17, 2013, 7:45 p.m.

CAIRO — Egyptian vigilantes beat two men accused of stealing a motorized rickshaw on Sunday and then hanged them by their feet while some in a watching crowd chanted “kill them!” Both men died, security officials said.

The killings occurred a week after the attorney general's office encouraged civilians to arrest lawbreakers and hand them over to police. They are emblematic of the chaos sweeping Egypt and a security breakdown of frightening proportions.

It was one of the most extreme cases of vigilantism in two years of sharply deteriorating security after the 2011 uprising. Gruesome photos circulated quickly on Facebook and other social media outlets, showing images taken by people in the crowd of thousands who watched and recorded the lynchings on cellphone cameras.

The killings were in the town of Samanod, about 55 miles north of Cairo in the Nile Delta province of Gharbiya.

Mamdouh al-Muneer, spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood group in the Gharbiya governorate, said that the lynchings followed a spate of rapes in the area. He said there have been a number of incidents in the past several months of girls being abducted while leaving school.

“Unfortunately, the police are completely out of the picture in Gharbiya,” he said.

The Brotherhood is the country's dominant political group.

Egypt is mired in another wave of protests, clashes and unrest that have plagued the country since the ouster of authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak in the pro-democracy uprising two years ago.

This wave of unrest has also engulfed the nation's police force. Thousands of officers and low-ranking policemen have broken ranks, staging protests and waging strikes against what they say is the politicization of the force by President Mohamed Morsy, who came from the Muslim Brotherhood.

The state-run newspaper Ahram reported on its website that the events in Samanod began when the two men were dragged in the street after being caught “red-handed” trying to steal a motorized rickshaw. Witnesses said they were also accused of kidnapping a girl inside the rickshaw, but that she escaped unharmed.

“The lack of security has created a sense of terror here,” one witness said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.

The government's call for citizen arrests a week ago was prompted by the police strike and deteriorating security. Opponents fear that this is a prelude to the substitution of police by militias, including those belonging to other Islamist groups allied with Morsy and the Islamic fundamentalist Brotherhood.

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