Civilians watch over neighbourhoods

Civilians watch over neighbourhoods

Civilians armed with knives, axes, golf clubs, firebombs, metal bars and makeshift spears watched over many neighbourhoods in the sprawling capital of 18 million this weekend, defending their families and homes against widespread looting and lawlessness.

The thugs had exploited the chaos created by the largest anti-government protests in decades and the military failed to fill the vacuum left by police.

On Saturday, the army sent out an appeal for citizens to help. “The military encourages neighbourhood youth to defend their property and their honour,” it said in a statement.
On Sunday, joint teams of civilians and military were patrolling, some with guard dogs.
Mohammed Gafaar, a 34-year-old salesman in the Nasr City area, said his neighbourhood watch organised soon after the night curfew went into force at 4 pm.

They did it at the behest of residents, who appealed for protection of their property, sending out the call from the local mosque.

“I feel betrayed by the police,” said Gafaar, who had carried rocks, a stick and a firebomb in a soda bottle. “They have to be tried for the protesters they killed and for their treason. They left the country to be looted. I am angry at the regime.”

Akram al-Sharif, a 33-year old Cairo resident who lives in one of the affluent compounds in the city’s west at the edge of the desert, said locals hired twenty bedouins with guns, and organised into groups to protect the five gates of the compound.

“I am happy this is happening. There was solidarity,” he said. But he criticised the military for failing to protect private property.

The troubles began after days of protests calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak reached a crescendo Friday, when tens of thousands poured into the streets after noon prayers in the city’s 3,000 mosques.

The protests quickly spiralled into clashes with riot police, who fired countless canisters of tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons and beat the demonstrators with sticks.

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