Egypt presidential hopeful attacked in carjacking

By Aya Batrawy

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Feb. 24 2012 5:25 a.m. MST

CAIRO — A leading Islamist presidential hopeful spent the night in a hospital with a concussion after a carjacking attack on a highway to Cairo, the Egyptian police and his spokesman said Friday.

Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh was attacked by masked gunmen late Thursday and struck three times in the head with the butt of an automatic rifle, said the spokesman, Ali Bahnasawy. The attackers drove off with the vehicle.

The brazen attack on a presidential hopeful, just months before elections are to be held, highlighted the deteriorating security across Egypt since the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak from power a year ago.

Abolfotoh suffered a concussion but was released from a Cairo hospital in the morning, though he remains under medical supervision, Bahnasawy added.

Campaign officials said the motive for the carjacking was not immediately clear, but suspected it might have been a targeted attack. "We don't believe it's random, but we're not sure yet," Bahnasawy said.

While many blame the Interior Ministry for the deteriorating security over the past year, others see it as part of the failure by the ruling military council to steer the country through what was supposed to be a transition to democracy.

A reformist within the Muslim Brotherhood, Abolfotoh has gained some support among activists behind Egypt's uprising. The Brotherhood, which has emerged as Egypt's most powerful Islamist group and controls nearly half of seats in the country's new parliament, expelled him when he declared his intention to run in the presidential balloting.

The Brotherhood has vowed not to field a candidate in the elections, slated to take place by early June. Nominations for presidential candidates start in two weeks.

Abolfotoh had been campaigning for the presidency and was on his way back from a rally in Menoufia, 40 miles (60 kilometers) north of Cairo, when he was attacked. The gunmen drove off with his rental car after beating him and his driver.

Several members on Abolfotoh's team told The Associated Press they suspect the attack was made to look like a carjacking. Bahnasawy said some people in Menoufia had asked suspicious questions about Abolfotoh's route and travel details before he left the event.

Bahnasawy said their team has asked for extra police protection for Abolfotoh.

Police officials said they were investigating the incident and searching for suspects.

Crime has been on the rise in post-Mubarak Egypt, but has focused mainly on personal robberies, while murders have been rare.

During the 18-day uprising, more than 23,000 prisoners were either let out or broke out of prison during a collapse of the police force. Police now say that most of the crimes are being committed by some 5,000 escaped convicts who have yet to be caught.

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