CAIRO, (AFP) — A new Egyptian interior minister took office on Sunday pledging to restore public confidence in the police a day after protesters stormed several state security buildings.
The authorities meanwhile urged the return of documents taken by the protesters when they stormed the buildings in raids on Friday and Saturday, saying it was important they be returned to preserve “national security.”
In an acceptance statement carried by the state MENA news agency, Mansur al-Issawi said he would take “all necessary measures to restore confidence between citizens and the police.”
He also promised to make “every effort in the coming period to restore security and stability in the Egyptian street.”
Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, who was appointed on Thursday after demonstrations against the presence of associates of Hosni Mubarak in the caretaker government running affairs since the former president’s departure, named Issawi late on Saturday, the government’s Facebook page said.
He replaces Mahmud Wagdi, who was appointed by Mubarak in the dying days of his three-decade rule in a vain bid to appease mass protests demanding he step down.
Wagdi in turn replaced Habib al-Adly, the long feared head of Egypt’s internal security apparatus who went on trial on Saturday on corruption charges. He pleaded not guilty on all counts.
Protesters attacked several state security buildings on Friday and Saturday trying to retrieve files kept on the population by the security police, who have long been accused of human rights abuses.
The prime minister’s office and the state prosecutor appealed to citizens on Sunday to return the documents.
“Important and urgent: Appeal to the citizens to return all documents or papers taken from the headquarters of the state security to the army due to the dangerous nature of their contents,” a statement posted on the premier’s official Facebook page said.
Egypt’s state prosecutor issued a similar call urging the return of all the documents to the armed forces, and has dispatched teams to buildings that were vandalised to “examine” the documents, a judicial official said.
Around 2,500 protesters stormed the state security building in Cairo’s Nasr City “grabbing official documents before officials burn or shred them,” a security official told AFP.
Hundreds more tried to barge their way into another state security building in the Cairo suburb of Sheikh Zayed, where guards inside fired into the air to try to disperse the crowd.
In the northwestern city of Mersa Matruh, protesters surged into the state security headquarters, gathering up thousands of documents before setting the building on fire.
Residents of the coastal resort then sat at nearby cafes leafing through the documents for evidence of human rights abuses as smoke billowed from the headquarters, a witness told AFP.
On Friday, hundreds massed outside the local state security headquarters in Egypt’s second city Alexandria, hurling Molotov cocktails and burning police cars.
Some managed to get into the building, and security officials inside fired gunshots before troops intervened.
Protesters told AFP they had seen policemen set fire to documents and seized them to prevent their destruction.