The neighbors watched helplessly from behind locked gates as an exchange of gunfire rang out at the police station. Then about 80 prisoners burst through the station’s doors ”” some clad only in underwear, many brandishing guns, machetes, even a fire extinguisher ”” as the police fled.
“The police are afraid,” said Mohamed Ismail, 30, a witness. “I am afraid to leave my neighborhood.”
Three months after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, a crime wave in Egypt has emerged as a threat to its promised transition to democracy. Businessmen, politicians and human rights activists say they fear that the mounting disorder ”” from sectarian strife to soccer riots ”” is hampering a desperately needed economic recovery or, worse, inviting a new authoritarian crackdown.