World Bulletin / News Desk
The violence in recent days which has accompanied the political crisis in Egypt has once again turned attention to the crime gangs known as the Ax-men (Baltajis) throughout the country.
The Ax-men, who have come onto the agenda due to their assaults against anti-coup protestors supporting Morsi and setting fires to Muslim Brotherhood centers and offices, had first come to the forefront as “baltajis” during the public revolt against toppled president Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
THE CAMEL INCIDENTS
The Baltajis, who staged numerous attacks against those demonstrating against Mubarak, attacked protestors in Tahrir Square in 2011 with horses and camels. attacked. These developments were refered to as the “camel incident,” named after the historic Battle of the Camel.
During the period after the January 25, 2011 revolution in Egypt, many people lost their lives in attacks staged by the Baltajis. It has also been indicated that the Baltajis were involved in many robbery, seizure, looting and rape incidents.
It has been indicated that during the people’s uprising, bureaucrats, businessmen and influential names from the Mubarak regime were behind the Baltaji attacks on protestors.
Because of the attacks organized in Tahrir in 2011, many prominent names from the old regime, such as Mubarek-era President of the Assembly Saffet Al Sharif, ex-Minister Aisha Abdulhadi and member of Mubarak's National Democratic Party businessman Muhammad Ragab Hamida Halal are being charged and tried with setting "Ax-men" criminal groups against the demonstrators.
Leftist, liberal and secular opposition parties and movements frequently express that the ax-men were occasionally directed by the former regime’s chiefs of police and were brought by police to areas where protests were held.
Homeless and without families
The Baltajis, who are generally within the 14 to 30 age group, mostly live in the surrounding suburbs of urban centers and are known to be unemployed. Research indicates that a large percentage of Baltajis do not have families while close to half are homeless.
It is commonly accepted by Egyptians that drug and pill abuse is prevalent among the Baltajis who are prone to crime and violence.
It is said that the 5 thousand people who escaped prisons during the publis uprising and were allegedly deliberately released by former Interior Minister Habib El Adli are past of crime groups.
“Baltajis,” a term which came into Egyptian Arabic from Turkish, is used to refer to persons carrying axes. Previously indicating the fedayeen ranks within the Ottoman army which carried battle axes, Baltaji is now used for criminal gangs in Egypt.
Baltajis in Egypt generally carry out their attacks with cutting and drilling tools and molotov cocktails. Some of these groups are known to be armed and to conduct their attacks with weapons.
Police and Baltajis
While hundreds of thousands of people who had gathered last week in Ramses Square in the capital Cairo to condemn the coup, protestors between the May 15 Bridge and October 6 Bridge were attacked by the police and Ax-men.
Ax-men criminal gangs also attacked anti-coup demonstrators in Alexandria.