Policeman and soldier among four killed in Egypt attacks
CAIRO // A policeman was killed in a bomb blast near a Cairo court killed on Friday, shortly after two suicide bombers struck in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula in near-simultaneous attacks that killed three people, including a soldier.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks but Islamic militants have carried out a series of bombings in recent months targeting Egyptian security forces and the military.
Friday’s attacks came a day before the start of campaigning for presidential elections on May 26 and 27 in which the former military chief, Abdel Fattah El Sisi, is the frontrunner. Militants have blamed Mr El Sisi for orchestrating a deadly crackdown on the country’s Islamists.
Egyptian state TV said the mid-morning explosion in Cairo’s eastern Heliopolis suburb targeted a traffic police post near the court. Mena, the state news agency, quoted police as saying the blast was caused by a homemade bomb planted near the police post and that an explosives team was inspecting the site for more devices.
Three policemen were also wounded in the bombing.
In Sinai, two suicide bombers struck shortly after dawn in the town of El Tor in the southern part of the peninsula.
In the first attack, the bomber targeted an army checkpoint, killing two people, including one soldier, and wounding five, the health ministry said.
The second bomber stepped out on a road and blew himself up in front of a bus. One passenger was killed and three were wounded from that explosion.
The bombers’ body parts were scattered at both sites of the Sinai attacks and will be analysed to determine their identities, officials said.
The cabinet issued a statement saying it mourned the victims and vowing that “these cowardly attacks will only increase the determination of the police and the military ... to continue their honorable battle to defeat the darkness of terrorism, chase the criminal elements away and bring back security and safety to Egypt”.
Until Friday, Sinai had seen a few months’ lull in attacks, especially in the northern region of the peninsula where the military is waging a major offensive aimed at driving out insurgents who took control of several towns and villages in the area.
The region witnessed a surge in attacks following the military’s removal of the Islamist president Mohammed Morsi last July, a year after his election, after millions of Egyptians rallied against his rule and demanded he step down.
The interim, military-backed government in turn stepped up a campaign against Mr Morsi’s supporters in which hundreds of people have died and thousands were arrested.
The government has branded the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Mr Morsi hails, a terrorist organisation. The Islamist group denies any links to violence.
A Sinai-based Al Qaeda-inspired group, Ansar Beit Al Maqdis, or Champions of Jerusalem, has claimed responsibility for several deadly attacks, saying they were in revenge for the killings of protesters who have been staging near-daily demonstrations demanding Mr Morsi’s reinstatement.
Among its most high-profile attacks was a failed assassination attempt against Egypt’s interior minister in September, using a suicide bomber. Months later, the same group hit security headquarters in Cairo and several cities in the Nile Delta.
In a recent audio message, the Al Qaeda chief Ayman Al Zawahiri gave his approval for attacks on police and military in Egypt but urged militants to avoid civilian casualties so as not to draw public anger.
The town of El Tor has seen violence previously. In October, a suicide car bomb attack on the town’s security headquarters killed three policemen and wounded 55.
Southern Sinai is famous for its beach resorts, such as Sharm El Sheikh, and has generally been spared the violence that plagued the northern part of the peninsula. However, attacks in the resorts in 2005 and 2006 killed dozens, including tourists.
Meanwhile, a Cairo-based militant group has emerged in recent months and has claimed responsibility for several smaller attacks that targeted mostly traffic police, security guards or security forces.
The group – Ajnad Misr, or “Egypt’s Soldiers” – first appeared in January and said it was targeting police involved in curbing protests. Last month, it claimed responsibility for the assassination of a riot police force commander, posting on its Facebook page photos of the slain officer before he was killed.
Egypt’s Grand Mufti, Shawky Allam, condemned Friday’s attacks, saying that “every terrorist is doing an injustice to himself and to others and will not be immune from God’s punishment”.
* Associated Press
Published: May 3, 2014 04:00 AM