Homeland Security Colonel Wael Tahoon was shot dead in his car Tuesday by unknown assailants in front of his house in the district of Ain Shams, the Ministry of Interior said.
A conscript accompanying him in the car was also killed in the shooting.
General Hany Abdel Latif, the spokesman of the ministry, said that Tahoon was targeted “due to his high position in the Homeland Security apparatus, and in the investigation bureau”.
After the shooting, the assailants threw a homemade bomb as a distraction and ran away, an eyewitness told Daily News Egypt. The minor explosion injured one women and a child.
The ministry said police patrols are roaming the areas of Ain Shams, Matariya, and El-Zaytoon, to capture the perpetrators.
Prior to the revolution, Colonel Tahoon used to work in the State Security as head of the investigation unit in Al-Salam police station.
Daily News Egypt spoke with several individuals who interacted with Tahoon in that period. All spoke on condition of anonymity fearing retaliation by security.
Mostafa was arrested in 2001, and spent ten days in the State Security building. He remembers being interrogated daily, and said he was subjected to humiliating torture. “I was beaten, forced to take off my clothes, sleep on the floor, and have iced water poured on me,” he said.
He added that while under arrest, police informers stormed into his house, and accused him of “religious activity”. During the reign of Hosni Mubarak, thousands of Islamists were subjected to a heavy crackdown.
Mostafa argued that Tahoon was one of the officers who beat him inside a police van while on the way to the police station.
Saed, a middle aged man, said that Tahoon was hated among the citizens of Ain Shams and Matariya, adding that “he used to lead campaigns to arrest thugs. While doing so he arrested people randomly with no charges. Also, he used thugs and drug dealers to help him identify suspects.”
The controversial Matariya police station is called, in the political scene, as the “slaughter house”, in reference to the abundance of torture cases against detainees who are pending investigations.
In February, three prisoners at the police station died in detention.
“I was arrested for going to the mosques too often and tortured many times to confess belonging to an Islamist group. The evidence they found was some books of Islamic history and philosophy,” Saed said told Daily News Egypt.
“Tahoon was an engineer of torture in the Matariya police station which turned into a ‘slaughterhouse’ when he was the head officer there,” he asserted.
Saed thinks that the assassination is a “wrong step”, blaming the incident on the interior ministry.
“I condemn the killing of the officer, however when the Ministry of Interior allows such corrupt officers to be promoted and deal brutally with civilians they should expect such attacks,” he said. “Some of the oppressed young people who are not politically motivated might have done this out of vengeance.”
In 2008, several online campaigns were used to blog and publish alleged violations by the police, as activists started to document torture cases. One of them was directed against Tahoon.
Homeland Security is the descendent of the controversial State Security, which was stormed into by protesters in 2011. State Security buildings were known to host mass torture, abuse, and illegal detention.
Before the 2011 revolution, activists dubbed the buildings as slaughterhouses, and marked officers working there as “butchers”, due to rise of torture and police brutality.
The death of Tahoon marks another drive by shooting against a top ranking officer, in the security apparatus in Egypt. Police and army personnel have been targeted since the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi.