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Egyptian neighbors creating local militias

By Ivan Watson, CNN
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Protecting against looters
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Residents arm themselves to protect homes, stores
  • Men set up checkpoints, search cars
  • "People are much more organized today"

Cairo, Egypt (CNN) -- Until recently, Seif Awad worked a day job as an account manager for Cisco.

But since Saturday he has begun volunteering at nights, protecting his neighborhood with a volunteer defense squad of young male neighbors armed with makeshift weapons. Last night he armed himself with a big stick. On Sunday, Awad bought gasoline canisters and started making Molotov cocktails.

"If anyone comes on the street we're going to throw those at them," Awad said. "And I have a friend here who has a gun."

Shortly before he spoke on the phone Sunday night with CNN, Awad says he and his comrades scared off a group of men who tried to scale the walls of his upscale gated residential neighborhood.

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"They were trying to jump the walls and we ran at them," Awad recounted. "And when they saw us they fell back."

Real estate broker Karim Amer armed himself with a kitchen knife Saturday night and joined his own hastily formed neighborhood militia.

On Sunday night, Amer said he and his comrades barricaded side roads, set up checkpoints on main roads and searched passing cars.

"People are much more organized today," Amer said. "We've got people with whistles now. Different neighborhood corners have agreed to different whistles to signal for help."

On Saturday night, Amer said his group of volunteers captured two men whom he claims were trying to break into a store.

"When they saw floods of people coming from every area they felt trapped and surrendered and we tied them down," Amer said. "Then we got the military and they came and escorted them away."

Awad, the account manager, said on Saturday night his group detained a suspected looter with the help of patrolling Egyptian army soldiers. Awad said the troops, who are filling in the vacuum left by a police force that has largely left the streets, then made an example out of the suspected robber.

"They undressed him and tied him up on top of a tank and they drove around with him."

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