By Abdel-Rahman Hussein and Heba Fahmy
CAIRO: Gunshots were heard continuously in Heliopolis Saturday night but mainly came from neighborhood watch groups who were trying to scare would-be looters, real or imagined.
People set up makeshift roadblocks using rocks, sand and chairs all throughout the side streets of the neighborhood while army vehicles and personnel patrolled the main thoroughfares of Heliopolis.
Residents of Heliopolis descended to defend their streets from potential looters around mid-afternoon as the first reports of the looting began to spread. One man near the Military Academy was carrying a machine gun, but for the majority of the groups, it was sticks and sharpened knives.
Throughout the night there were sounds of shots fired in Heliopolis, but it was residents firing in the air when they suspected that someone might be approaching. A lot of the groups were also using air guns to sound warnings to other groups in the area to stay alert.
The Presidential Palace is also in Heliopolis but the army and presidential guard were out en masse in the surrounding area. A resident in the area, Taiseer Nasry told Daily News Egypt, “Across the road from me there is a building housing intelligence services, and the army was all around the presidential palace.”
However, this did not prevent some shots being fired at an Alfa Supermarket nearby according to Nasry, who said that some looters had attempted to rob the supermarket. There were also reported attempts of looting in Masaken Sheraton and near Hegaz Square.
“I was upset that things were being stolen and looted and I felt it was intentional so, I’m hearing that they are from the security forces. However every hour this chaos continues is not good for Egypt,” Heliopolis resident Deena Saadedine told Daily News Egypt.
“All the men on Makram Ebeid Street, Nasr City used anything to fight with and took to the streets to protect their families,” engineer Islam Al-Kaseer said.
Al Kaseer said that 13 thugs were detained by the people protecting the area and were handed over to the army.
He said there were many people with guns licensed for personal protection.
“I feel proud to be protecting my home and family, even if I die doing it,” he said.
“I went down to the streets holding my grandfather’s cane to protect my family,” Nagi Magdi, from Nasr City told Daily News Egypt.
“But if this goes on for long, it will be a huge problem,” he added.
The neighborhood watch groups closed off the streets and checked pedestrians’ IDs and drivers’ licenses before letting them through.
“I am proud to be protecting my people and I feel completely responsible for them,” Amr Bahgat, marketing engineer told Daily News Egypt.
“This has brought people close together and made them get to know each other and care for each other,” graphic designer, Mohamed Alaa Eldin told Daily News Egypt.
The neighborhood watch groups said the army cooperated with them to protect civilians from thugs.