Former militants replace police in southern Egypt

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An Egyptian army soldier helps another soldier with a mask as troops take control of the state security building after several days of clashes between protesters and riot police in Port Said, Egypt, Friday, March 8, 2013. With the country in chaos from weeks of protests against the Islamist president, the police have now joined the fray, launching their own protests. Some security forces in Port Said have refused to leave their barracks to move against protesters in the street amid clashes raging for days. Others have refused orders to deploy to Port Said from elsewhere to help in the fight. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

ASSUIT, Egypt (AP) — A former Islamic militant group says it is sending its members out to police streets in a southern Egypt province because protesting security forces are on strike.

The Gamaa Islamiya group said Friday it is taking "full responsibility" of security in Assiut province, an Islamist stronghold. It said it was assembling volunteer members to act as police in the streets.

Assiut security chief, Gen. Aboul-Kassem Deif, said the group's move was illegal but acknowledged, "I don't know what to do."

Many of Assiut's police have joined a nationwide wave of strikes by security forces amid the country's unrest.

Gamaa Islamiya waged an Islamic militant insurgency against the state in the 1990s. It forswore violence but maintains a hard-line ideology.