Attack on Egypt Central Bank Chief’s Car Shows Security Woes

Masked gunmen attacked the car of Egypt’s central bank governor this morning, shooting dead an armed police guard in an incident highlighting security problems gripping the country two years after the 2011 uprising.

Hisham Ramez said in an interview that he wasn’t in the car at the time and the attack was likely a robbery attempt. Police are searching for the attackers, who drove off in the car, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported.

“I am safe,” said Ramez, who took over as governor earlier this month as Egypt’s authorities grapple with a weakening currency and foreign reserves that have fallen more than 60 percent since the uprising against Hosni Mubarak that started two years ago.

Restoring security and reviving a battered economy are key challenges facing President Mohamed Mursi. Egyptians complain about widespread crime, including robberies and attacks similar to that on Ramez’s car, as well as sexual assaults against female protesters.

“The aggression, violence, robberies and looting we are hearing about” are “definitely impacting and disturbing the economic activity in general,” Mona Mansour, chief economist at Cairo-based investment bank CI Capital, said by phone.

Police Abuses

Mursi’s critics say Mubarak-era police abuses continue under the Islamist president, even amid a sense of lawlessness that has spread since the revolution. They accuse him of focusing on advancing the interests of the Muslim Brotherhood while failing to realize goals of the revolt such as improving living standards.

The president’s supporters say frequent protests that have recently over into violent clashes are disrupting the government’s economic recovery efforts.

“Egyptian police and security forces now face almost daily challenges in the streets,” and there are “credible reports” that they have sometimes used excessive force, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Michael Posner said in Cairo yesterday.

Dozens of policemen staged a protest in Northern Sinai today demanding more work benefits and better armament as well as retribution for police attacked while on duty, MENA reported.

Bassem Yassa, a 24-year-old section manager at Procter & Gamble Co. in Cairo, said he experienced a situation similar to the attack on Ramez’s car last month, when armed attackers forced him out of the company car he was driving at around 3:30 a.m. His wallet and two mobile phones were in the car, he said.

“One of them pointed a gun at my stomach as the others jumped in the car and tried to work out how to drive it,” he said by phone. He said that while police eventually managed to arrest the assailants, the incident left him feeling that “anyone who wants to do anything does exactly as they wish. It’s up to us to watch out for ourselves.”

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