There are generally two stories about how reliable the police force is in the southern Egyptian city of Assiut, and one of those is told by the police.

“We are present. We are efficient, and we work around-the-clock,” said Alaa Abdelsalam, one of the city’s two district police chiefs, in his office in an elegant, colonial-era station one recent night. An entourage of officers nodded in agreement.

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