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.
Policemen in Cairo (Photo: EPA)
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 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 hung.
Riots in Port Said (Photo: AFP)
Witnesses claimed the men had kidnapped a girl inside the rickshaw, but that she 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.
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 (90 kilometers) north of Cairo.
They appear badly beaten.
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.
Car burning during Cairo riots (Photo: AFP)
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.
Citizens have grown bolder in taking matters into their own hands following the 2011 uprising that ousted longtime authoritarian ruler Hosni Mubarak.
The country's once powerful and feared police force was left
weakened after the revolt.
is embroiled in another wave of political unrest
that 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 Mohammed Morsi
and his interior minister.
Opponents of the attorney general's call for citizen arrests fear that it is a prelude to the substitution of police by militias belonging to Morsi's powerful Muslim Brotherhood
group and other allied Islamist
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