Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya members on motorbikes roamed the streets of Assiut on Tuesday, promising to bring security to the Upper Egypt governorate.
Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya announced the establishment of “popular committees” three weeks ago. These committees will be responsible for resolving road blockages peacefully and preventing violent crime.
Al-Jamaa announced the formation of a popular committee in Assiut to fill what they described as a “security vacuum” in the absence of the police. Police forces in Assiut have been on a partial strike for almost ten days protesting the Minister of Interior’s policies.
“We called upon citizens of all affiliations to join us in protecting lives as well as public and private properties,” said Radwan Al-Touni, Assiut secretary of the Building and Development Party (BDP), Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya’s political wing. Al-Touni added that the committees would replace police forces whenever the police are absent or incapable of carrying out their duties.
Al-Jamaa’s Popular Squad first appeared on the streets of Assiut on Monday. “We took to the street to reassure the residents and erase their fear of the security vacuum in the absence of the police,” Al-Touni said. He denied that the move was a display of power. The squad toured the governorate’s streets again on Tuesday, alarming some residents.
Ahmed Khanfour, head of the Al-Dostour Party’s Mass Action Committee in Assiut, stated that Assiut residents do not welcome Al-Jamaa’s initiative. He said that residents did not want them to play a role in governorate security because of their violent history.
“We received complaints from residents, telling us that bearded men on motorbikes with Al-Jamaa’s flags on them are saying they are replacing the police,” Khanfour said. He added that the Al-Jamaa members carried knives.
“We reported the incident to Assiut Security Directorate,” Khanfour said, referring to a group of Assiut residents from diverse political backgrounds. “We asked them to turn over the security of the governorate to the army if they are incapable of protecting it.”
The security officials responded immediately, saying that they are entirely capable of protecting the governorate, Khanfour said. “Despite the strike, the police stations were doing their job,” he said.
Al-Jamaa released a statement on Tuesday denying that their members dismissed and replaced policemen guarding a bank in Assiut. “If such an incident did occur, our members had nothing to do with it,” the statement read.
“The police still need our assistance,” Al-Touni said. “We are there to support the police, not to replace them.”
Alaa Seddiq, Sohag secretary for the BDP, denied the formation of a popular committee in Sohag governorate. “Sohag is pretty secure,” Seddiq said. “We only volunteer to form committees when their presence is needed.”
Seddiq stated that the committees work under the auspices of the Ministry of Interior.
On Sunday, the prosecutor general released a statement highlighting a law that allows citizens to arrest those who vandalise public and private property, block roads, and prevent public officials from carrying out their duties, among other crimes. The prosecutor general urged citizens to put this law into practice.