UN consultant shot dead in Cairo

AP News
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Posted: Feb 12, 2012 2:50 PM
UN consultant shot dead in Cairo

An Egyptian woman who worked for the United Nations as a freelance consultant was fatally shot in the head while driving through an upscale Cairo neighborhood on Sunday, security officials said.

It was not immediately clear whether the woman, identified as 41 year-old Nermeen Gomaa Khalil, was targeted or killed in a random crime. Police said she was shot by unidentified gunmen passing in another car, but no one has been arrested.

It was one of the more serious attacks in a crime spree over the past year after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak and the withdrawal of police from the streets, which led to a deterioration in security.

Khalil was shot in broad daylight while driving her SUV on one of Cairo's busiest streets in the neighborhood of Mohandiseen, according to a security official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters. Khawla Mattar, director of the UN Information Center in Egypt, said Khalil was a consultant with a women's fund at the United Nations in Cairo and also worked at a medical lab.

The crime wave has focused mainly on personal robberies, and more recently a string of bank robberies or attempts, while murders have been rare.

During the 18-day uprising that led to Mubarak's ouster, more than 23,000 prisoners were either let out or broke out of prison during a collapse of the police force. Police say that most of the crimes are being committed by some 5,000 escapees who have yet to be caught.

The police largely vanished from the streets during the uprising and though many have since returned, some parts of the city _ in particular upscale districts _ are much more dangerous than they were under Mubarak's authoritarian rule.

Many blame the Interior Ministry, which controls the police. For decades under the Mubarak regime, the Interior Ministry was associated with torture and corruption. But the security lapse is also seen as part of the failure by the ruling military council to steer the country through what was supposed to be a transition to democracy.

There have also been frequent reports of crimes, or of citizens responding to crime by taking the law in their own hands in the countryside.

In northern Sharqiya province, police said muggers killed a man last week as they attempted to steal his vehicle. They said the victim's relatives tracked down one of the muggers who killed him and lynched him in the middle of the town of Abu-Hammad. They then burnt his body while it hung on the light pole.

Another vigilante incident took place last week in the Nile Delta province of Mansoura, where relatives of a victim took justice into their own hands and lynched two suspected killers.