Egypt to Arm Policemen in Wake of Cop Protests

Egypt will arm low ranking policemen with pistols, after they held protests demanding weapons and better work conditions.

Elad Benari ,

Riot police vehicles take their positions aft
Riot police vehicles take their positions aft

Egypt will arm low ranking policemen with pistols, a security source said on Saturday, after they held protests demanding weapons and better work conditions amid a spike in violent crime, AFP reported.

Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim agreed to import 100,000 pistols, the source said, after almost a week of protests by policemen.

Egyptian police officers and some conscripts are equipped with side arms and sometimes assault rifles, but the lowest ranking policemen are unarmed, according to AFP.

Crime spiraled in Egypt after an uprising overthrew president Hosni Mubarak in early 2011, leaving the reviled interior ministry in tatters.

About 30 policemen died during the 18-day uprising, in which police stations were torched, and at least 138 have been killed since, according to ministry figures released in January.

On Saturday, police and civilian mourners at the funeral of a police captain who died the previous night in a gunfight, badly beat a man they believed was involved in the shooting, witnesses said.

Footage on YouTube showed pistol wielding men holding the bloodied suspect on a pickup truck, in the province of Beni Suef, south of Cairo.

The governor of Beni Suef, Maher Beibers, told the Egyptian ONTV channel that he was later taken to hospital, from where he escaped.

Since Mubarak’s overthrow, Egypt has witnessed violence, insecurity and price hikes, fuelling political turmoil already plaguing the country.

Protests between police and protesters, who accuse Islamist President Mohammed Morsi of betraying the revolution that brought him to power, have often turned violent and sometimes deadly.

Last week Egyptian police fired tear gas and water cannons at stone-throwing protesters outside the presidential palace as the opposition rallied to mark the second anniversary of Mubarak's overthrow.

The clashes broke out after several hundred protesters marched to the palace, the site of increasingly frequent clashes.

A wave of deadly clashes swept Suez Canal cities around January 25, the anniversary of the start of the anti-Mubarak uprising, in which dozens of protesters were killed, prompting Morsi to call in the military.

Egypt's cabinet on Wednesday approved a new draft law regulating public demonstrations, which stipulates that organizers must inform authorities of plans to protest in advance and the interior ministry has the right to reject a demonstration.

Protests will be restricted to a specific location in each province to be decided by the governor.