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Egyptian police strikes spread

The police in Egypt continued to protest against the Interior Ministry, as strikes spread across the country.

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Egyptian riot police sit outside the high constitutional court in Cairo on February 3, 2013. (KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)

CAIRO, Egypt — More than 30 police stations across Egypt closed their doors in protest on Friday, as security forces called for the dismissal of Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim.

Egypt's policemen have been protesting the policies of the country's Interior Ministry, saying they no longer wanted to be used as a political tool, according to security officials cited by Agence France Presse.

Egyptian news site Ahram Online said police strikes were reported in Cairo, Luxor, Gharbiya, Assiut, North Sinai, Damietta, Mansoura, Port Said and Mahalla Al-Kobra.

In the capital, dozens of police officers demonstrated, shouting, "Down with the Interior Ministry; Down with the Muslim Brotherhood's ministry."

The ongoing police strike, which intensified Thursday with the closure of more than two-dozen police stations across the country, is one of the largest and possibly the most significant since revolution two years ago.

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The New York Times said the current wave of protests began on Tuesday when 2,000 riot police officers refused to deploy in Port Said, where demonstrators have clashed with security forces since January.

Police conscripts have sporadically protested for better working conditions, including higher wages. But the current strike comes during a period of heightened political tensions and violence.

The country has been teetering since the second anniversary of the uprising in January, and the police force has emerged as central to the ongoing crisis. Protesters accuse the security services of increasing police abuses under President Mohamed Morsi — and now police officers are refusing orders until their role, either as public servants or political soldiers, is clear, they say.

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While largely ineffective at keeping the peace, the complete withdrawal of police from the nation’s streets could have lasting political implications. Their removal could pave the way for yet another military takeover, as residents clamor for law and order. (Already, in restive Port Said, the police have been replaced by the military.) Or vigilante groups could form, taking the law into their own hands.

The Muslim Brotherhood is well-known for its ability to mobilize supporters to protect institutions and other state properties or party offices. If Islamist supporters were rallied to guard government or party buildings, this would put them in direct and possibly violent confrontation with anti-Morsi demonstrators. 

Senior Correspondent Erin Cunningham reported from Cairo. Follow her on Twitter @erinmcunningham.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/egypt/130308/egyptian-police-strikes-spread