Cairo Egyptian security officials on Thursday confirmed a large bomb tore through a national security building in the Shubra neighborhood of Cairo. They have not reported any deaths from the explosion but did wound at least six people. For blocks around the blast site in the popular residential neighborhood, glass from blown-out windows could be seen on the street. Egypt’s interior minister confirmed that a car exploded outside the security compound and said the assailant fled the scene on a motorcycle. They also confirmed that six officers had been taken to a hospital and that the building was damaged. Television footage from the scene also showed damaged buildings.
The sound of a large explosion shook Cairo just before 2am, rattling windows and waking sleeping residents across the capital. An increase in insurgent attacks has taken place in Egypt in recent months. In late June, the country’s chief prosecutor was assassinated during a daylight bombing in the capital. Insurgents based in the Sinai Peninsula have launched attacks in Egypt for years. Those attacks accelerated in 2013 following the military’s removal of the newly-elected President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Thursday’s explosion comes days after Egypt’s president Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi signed into law new anti-terror legislation that critics say will muzzle political opponents and the news media. The law establishes special courts, stipulates harsh penalties for offences defined as terrorism-related crimes, and imposes fines for journalists who contradict the state’s account of an attack.
No one has yet claimed responsibility for the blast, but Sinai Province, the Egyptian branch of the Islamic State group regularly carries out attacks on security services as part of an insurgency that has swelled since the army’s ouster of president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013. Islamic militants say their attacks are in retaliation to a police crackdown targeting Morsi supporters that has left hundreds dead and thousands jailed.
In the space of five days last month, militants based in the Sinai Peninsula and linked to the Islamic State claimed responsibility for both a car bombing in the heart of the capital and the destruction of a naval vessel off the country’s Mediterranean coast. The bombing killed one person and destroyed part of the Italian Consulate in central Cairo, the group’s first attack on a foreign diplomatic mission. The naval ship appeared to have been attacked by a missile, according to pictures the group posted to social media.
On Wednesday a report by Human Rights Watch strongly criticized the Sisi government’s new antiterrorism law, enacted this week, for being “so broadly worded it could encompass civil disobedience.” Hundreds of soldiers and police have been killed since the army toppled Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in 2013 after mass protests against his rule.