CAIRO (TheBlaze/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 roughly 55 miles north of Cairo 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 “Arab Spring” uprising. The state-run newspaper Al-Ahram reported that the two men were dragged in the street after being caught “red-handed” trying to steal a rickshaw. They were said to be badly beaten, but alive, when hung.
Witnesses claimed the men had also kidnapped a girl inside the rickshaw, but she reportedly 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.
Still, some purported photos of the horrifying event have surfaced (EXTREME CONTENT WARNING):
The photographer said that women and children in the crowd watched the men being hung by their feet, and that some even chanted in support of the lynching.
But Mamdouh al-Muneer, a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood group in the Gharbiya governorate, explained for The Associated Press that the lynchings may also be related to a spate of rapes in the area. Apparently there have been a number of incidents in the past several months of girls being abducted while leaving school.
“Unfortunately, the police are completely out of the picture in Gharbiya,” he added. “They are not comfortable with their position, with the president or with their role after the uprising.”
Images 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.
Photographs taken later show the men 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.
Video illustrates just how massive the crowd was; many can be seen holding up their smartphones to record the gruesome event (EXTREME CONTENT WARNING):
Al-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 current crises. Earlier in the day, residents of the nearby city of Mahalla had cut off a main train track 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.
Security officials say those who tried to help free the men were pushed back by the wild crowd. Eventually, the bodies were dumped at the front door of an obviously inept nearby police station.
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 has been left severely weakened, and with the steep increase in crime, many feel it’s their responsibility to dole out “justice.”
The Associated Press described the horrifying scene as “emblematic” of the chaos that is sweeping the country, which is “mired in protests over a range of social, economic and political problems and with security breaking down to frightening proportions.”