The violence underscored the struggle of authorities to tame
militant violence which has increasingly challenged the state since
the army toppled Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in July.
In the most high-profile attack, a car bomb exploded at a security
compound in central Cairo early in the morning and killed at least
four people, including three policemen, security sources said.
They said the blast was the work of a suicide bomber. But footage
broadcast on an Egyptian television channel showed a man getting out
of a van and moving into another vehicle. Minutes later the van
Another blast in the Dokki district killed one person. An explosion
near a cinema on the road to the Pyramids of Giza on the outskirts
of Cairo also led to one fatality.
Clashes in the capital and several other cities between Mursi
supporters and security forces which killed 11 people also raised
tensions in the biggest Arab nation.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the car bomb
attack in the parking lot of the Cairo Security Directorate, or the
other blasts. But they had all the trademarks of attacks carried out
by militants seeking to topple the army-backed government.
Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi condemned the bloodshed in a
statement, saying it was an attempt by "terrorist forces" to derail
the army-backed government's political road map, which is meant to
lead to free and fair elections.
Later in the day, a military helicopter flew back and forth over
central Cairo, underscoring concerns that another attack could occur
at any time.
In Washington, the White House condemned the bombings and urged all
sides to avoid violence. "These crimes should be investigated fully
and the perpetrators should be brought to justice," spokesman Jay
Carney told reporters.
MUBARAK OUSTER ANNIVERSARY
Authorities have been bracing for more violence during the
anniversary of Mubarak's fall, when rival political groups are
expected to turn out, including supporters of army chief General
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who ousted Mursi, as well as members of the
Muslim Brotherhood and liberals.
The 2011 revolt raised hopes of a stable democracy in the Arab
world's biggest nation. Instead, relentless political turmoil has
hit investment and tourism hard in Egypt.
In a statement, the office of President Adly Mansour said it would
"avenge the deaths of the martyrs" who died at the Security
Directorate and severely punish the perpetrators.
Reuters witnesses heard gunfire right after the first blast, which
twisted metal and shattered windows of nearby shops. Wood and metal
debris was scattered hundreds of meters around.
One body covered in a blanket lay in a pool of blood near a scorched
State television quoted witnesses as saying gunmen on motorcycles
opened fire on buildings after the explosion. The Health Ministry
said 76 people were wounded.
The blast also heavily damaged the nearby Islamic Art Museum, an
official told the state news agency.
[to top of second column]
POLITICAL ROAD MAP
After ousting Mursi, Sisi unveiled a political road map he said
would bring elections and calm to Egypt.
Security forces have killed hundreds of Brotherhood members and
jailed thousands more, including top leaders.
The army-backed government has effectively removed the Brotherhood
from politics and many Egyptians turned against it after Mursi's
troubled one-year rule.
Intense pressure on the movement has severely hurt its ability to
stage mass protests it had hoped would reverse what it calls an army
coup that has undermined Egypt's democratic credentials.
But authorities are struggling to contain Islamist militant
violence. Militants based in the Sinai have stepped up attacks on
security forces since Mursi's fall, killing hundreds.
Attacks in other parts of Egypt have also risen, fuelling fears the
country could face an Islamist insurgency similar to one that raged
in the 1990s before Mubarak stamped it out.
The Sinai-based Islamist militant group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis said in
December it was behind a car bomb attack on a Nile Delta police
compound that killed 16 people and wounded about 140.
On Thursday, gunmen killed five policemen at a checkpoint south of
Cairo, the Interior Ministry said.
"TRAITORS AND DOGS"
The police headquarters assault will likely encourage the state to
crack down harder on the Brotherhood, which it accuses of terrorist
acts. The group says it is a peaceful movement.
Human rights groups accuse security forces of widespread human
rights abuses in their crackdown on the Brotherhood. But the group
has little sympathy on the street.
The mood was tense at the Cairo Security Directorate. "Traitors and
dogs!" yelled onlookers, an apparent reference to the assailants.
People also chanted anti-Brotherhood slogans. "The people want the
execution of the Brotherhood. Execution for Mursi," they yelled.
One woman, Wafaa Ahmed, was crying outside the Cairo Security
"These people have no sense of loyalty to the nation. This is
terrorism, they want to get back at us because we finished them off
...," she said.
(Additional reporting by Shadia Nasralla;
writing by Michael Georgy;
editing by Tom Heneghan and Alister Doyle)
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