Cairo explosion: three policemen killed pursuing bomber

Blast in Darb Al Ahmar district also killed the suspect the police were chasing

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A wanted Egyptian militant blew himself up late Monday night as he was being apprehended by two plainclothes policemen who have been following his trail across Cairo. The explosion killed the suspect as well as three officers in the third terror-related incident in Egypt since Friday.

Monday’s night blast also wounded six people, including three policemen, a woman, a child and a student from Thailand, according to security officials.

“As security surrounded the man and was set to arrest and control him, an explosive device in his possession went off,” the ministry said.

In a separate incident, authorities on Tuesday said a total of 16 militants were killed in two exchanges of fire with security forces in the coastal Sinai city of El Arish. They said the firefights took place when the security forces stormed their hideouts, but did not say when that happened.

The Interior Ministry, which oversees the police, said in a statement that the Cairo suspect was linked to a bombing on Friday near a mosque in the Cairo district of Giza, which wounded three people including a policeman.

The security officials said the suspect was seen by security cameras leaving the area around the mosque shortly before Friday’s blast. They said security cameras later captured his movements elsewhere in the city before police finally tracked him down in the historical area of Darb Al Ahmar, behind Cairo’s landmark Al Azhar mosque in the medieval quarter of the city.

A video clip being widely shared online purports to show the suspect emerging from a home he has recently rented and riding away on a bicycle. He tries to speed away when the policemen begin to give chase, but they apprehend him seconds before a blast dims out the footage.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

The Interior Ministry did not identify the suspect. There was no claim of responsibility for the Friday attack but authorities blamed on the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group branded a terrorist organization by the Egyptian government. The officials, however, said police were looking into the possibility that the suspect was acting alone.

Monday’s night incident came just two days after the military reported the death and injury of 15 army soldiers when Islamic militants attacked a checkpoint in northern Sinai, the deadliest attack in the mostly desert peninsula since November 2017 when more than 300 worshippers were killed in the worst terror attacks in Egypt’s modern history. The military did not provide a breakdown of the injured and dead among the 15, but images shared online over the past two days purported to show the military coffins – draped in black, white and red Egyptian flags – of at least a dozen men.

It is too early to say whether the three incidents since Friday constitute a surge in terror-related attacks or that their quick succession was a coincidence, but some pro-government commentators speculated that they are linked to moves in parliament to amend the constitution to allow President Abdel Fatah El Sisi to potentially remain in office until 2034. As defence minister, Mr El Sisi led the military’s 2013 ouster of President Mohammed Morsi, a Brotherhood stalwart whose one year in office proved divisive.

Egypt has been battling Islamic militants for years, but the insurgency, centred in northern Sinai, picked up steam since 2013. However, a large-scale military campaign in the peninsula that began a year ago has taken a heavy toll on the militants and prevented them from launching high-profile attacks.