Egyptian vigilantes hang 2 thieves in public

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CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian vigilantes beat two men accused of stealing a motorized rickshaw, stripped them half-naked and hung them by their feet in a crowded bus station in the Nile Delta on Sunday, according to security officials. Both men died.

A witness said some in the crowd of about 3,000 people who watched the lynchings egged them on with chants of “Kill them!”

The lynchings came a week after the attorney general’s office encouraged civilians to arrest lawbreakers and hand them over to police.

It was one of the most extreme cases of vigilantism in two years of sharp deterioration in security following Egypt‘s 2011 uprising. The worsening security coupled with a police strike prompted the attorney general’s call for citizen arrests last week.

The scene was emblematic of the chaos that is sweeping the country, mired in protests over a range of social, economic and political problems and with security breaking down to frightening proportions.

The state-run newspaper Ahram reported on its website that the two men were dragged in the street after being caught “red-handed” trying to steal a rickshaw. It said they were beaten but alive before they were strung up.

Witnesses claimed that the men had kidnapped a girl inside the rickshaw but that she had escaped unharmed.

A photographer who witnessed the scene told The Associated Press that some in the crowd of around 3,000 threatened to kill him if he took pictures of the lynching.

He said that women and children in the crowd watched the men being strung up by their feet and that some even chanted in support of the lynching.

Residents also threatened to lynch another two men accused of being involved in the rickshaw theft.

Photographs from the scene show the two men hanging upside down from a rafter in their underwear at an open-air bus station in the town of Samanod, about 55 miles north of Cairo. They appear badly beaten. Some initial reports said they were hanging from a tree, but photos from the scene showed it was a rafter.

Other photographs show the men then lying on the ground dead in their underwear, with ropes around their feet. Their bodies are covered in dirt, bruises, blood and lacerations as a group of angry looking men gathered around them. One man in the crowd grasped a knife in one fist and another held up a bloodied wooden stick.

The witness said the crowd then took the bodies to a nearby police station and dumped them at the front door.

Ahram reported that police could not reach the site of the hangings because residents had cut off the roads to protest a shortage of diesel fuel, one of Egypt‘s many crises. Earlier in the day, residents of the nearby city of Mahalla had cut off a main train line to protest the fuel shortages.

“The lack of security has created a sense of terror here,” the witness said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. “The entire area is shut down because of protests against the fuel shortages.”

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