Tarek Bedair, an Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya leader in Assiut, said that the ultra-conservative group had deployed its younger members in an attempt to maintain security in the city, where some police officers are on strike.
"Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya is not seeking to replace the police, but rather to fill a security vacuum [in the city]," Bedair said in a telephone interview with Al-Hayat satellite TV channel on Tuesday evening.
The channel earlier broadcast a video depicting a parade of motorbikes and cars that it described as the "Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya police" patrolling the city's streets.
The Islamist group had announced on Friday it planned to use its 'popular committees' to protect Assiut if Egyptian police failed to return to work. Many condemned the announcement fearing it might prompt political groups to start establishing militias.
Bedair said that his group had contributed to handling a number of crises in the city resulting from negligence on the part of regional government officials, including distributing food, butane gas for cooking, and fuel, as well as rubbish collection.
Bedair described the move as driven by "a sense of responsibility and an attempt to ensure the stability of the state."
However, Assiut Security Chief Major General Abul Kassem Abu Deif rejected moves by any political group to create bodies parallel to the state's security apparatus.
"Maintaining security and protecting the citizenry is the responsibility of the police and what Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya has done is illegal," he told the channel.
Ahram Online, via Egypt.com