CAIRO: Masked gunmen attacked the car of Egypt’s central bank governor on Wednesday, killing his bodyguard and stealing the vehicle, the Interior Ministry said.
The bank chief was not in the car at the time of the assault. Egypt has been hit by an unprecedented wave of violence, including armed robberies, kidnappings and car thefts, following the breakdown of security agencies in the wake of the uprising against longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak two years ago.
Central bank chief Hesham Ramez, who was recently appointed to the post, told the pan-Arab Al Arabiya TV station that the attack appeared to be a random criminal act and not an assassination attempt.
The Interior Ministry said in a statement that assailants in two four-wheel drive vehicles intercepted the bank chief’s car and a second sedan carrying a bodyguard as they were on their way to pick Ramez up at his home.
The attackers opened fire on the two vehicles on a highway in Giza, Cairo’s sister city, killing the bodyguard.
The assailants then sped away with the governor’s car, the statement said.
The crime rate in Egypt has risen as the country’s economy has unraveled and its politics have descended into relentless turmoil, marred by increasingly violent protests and government security crackdowns.
Religious edicts criminalising opposition to the government and permitting killing opponents have fueled concerns of potentially more political violence.
Also on Wednesday, an appeals court has accepted a retrial request from three Mubarak-era ministers, who were sentenced to various jail terms for abusing power and making illicit gains.
Former Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif and Mubarak’s last interior minister, Habib el-Adly, were convicted of wasting nearly $14 million in public money and profiteering by granting a German businessman a contract to sell license plates in Egypt without a competitive bid.
Nazif was sentenced to a one-year suspended sentence and el-Adly received a five-year jail sentence.
The former finance minister also was convicted in absentia in the same case.
Nazif and el-Adly already are serving sentences in separate cases.
The court also accepted the appeal of a former tourism minister who was sentenced to five years in another corruption case.
Zuheir Garana was convicted in May 2011 for making illegal gains of $51 million from selling state land to a private investor.
The court decisions come amid reports that the government is trying to reconcile with former regime officials and businessmen who were accused of profiteering to restore state funds.
State-run newspaper Al Ahram reported on Wednesday that the justice ministry was working to amend criminal law to remove travel bans and detention for businessmen during legal procedures and ease financial settlement procedures.