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Egypt official calls for citizen arrests

Talaat Abdullah’s call came because of a police strike.

Talaat Abdullah’s call came because of a police strike.

CAIRO — A call by Egypt’s top prosecutor encouraging citizens to arrest anyone breaking the law or committing a crime has stoked fears of vigilante groups taking over police duties at a time of growing tension and lawlessness.

The prosecutor’s call for citizen arrests, made in a statement issued late Sunday, comes at a time when a large segment of the country’s police force is on an unprecedented strike, lawlessness and political turmoil appear to be deepening, and a rapidly worsening economy is fueling a potential explosive situation.

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Islamist groups loyal to President Mohammed Morsi have stated their intention to form vigilante groups to take over police duties, a prospect that has given rise to fears of civil strife.

The statement from chief prosecutor Talaat Abdullah’s office was attributed to a senior aide, Hassan Yassin. Among the offenses that he said require citizen arrests are sabotaging state facilities, blocking roads, disrupting public transport, preventing state employees from reaching their workplaces, and terrorizing citizens.

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