A WAVE of bomb attacks has hit central Cairo, killing six people and raising fears an Islamist insurgency is gaining pace on the eve of the third anniversary of the uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
Yesterday’s violence underscored the army-backed regime’s struggle to tame an Islamist insurgency which has been gaining pace since the military toppled Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July.
In the most high-profile attack, a suicide bomber struck at a security compound in central Cairo early yesterday and killed at least four people.
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 left one person dead.
Clashes in the capital and several other cities between supporters of Mr Morsi and security forces, which killed 11 people, also raised tensions in the world’s biggest Arab nation.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the suicide attack on the Cairo Security Directorate. Interim prime minister Hazem el-Beblawi condemned the bloodshed, 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 fears of further attacks.
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 Mr Morsi, members of the Muslim Brotherhood and liberals.
The 2011 revolt raised hopes of a stable democracy in Egypt. Instead, relentless political turmoil has hit investment and tourism hard.
The dead from the first blast in the security HQ included three policemen, security sources said. The nearby Islamic Art Museum was also damaged.
In a statement, president Adly Mansour said he would “avenge the deaths of the martyrs” who died at the security directorate and punish the perpetrators.
Witnesses heard gunfire after the first blast, which twisted metal and shattered the windows of nearby shops. Wood and metal debris was scattered for hundreds of yards around. One body covered in a blanket lay in a pool of blood near a scorched car engine. Witnesses said gunmen on motorcycles opened fire on buildings after the blast. The health ministry said 76 people were wounded.
After deposing Mr Morsi, General 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 Mr Morsi’s troubled one-year rule. Intense pressure on the movement has severely curtailed its ability to stage mass protests it had hoped would reverse what it calls an army coup which led to Mr Morsi’s imprisonment. But the authorities are struggling to contain Islamist militant violence. Militants in the Sinai have stepped up attacks on security forces since his 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.
The mood was tense at the site of Friday’s suicide bombing. “Traitors and dogs!” yelled onlookers, an apparent reference to the assailants. Others chanted anti-Brotherhood slogans. “The people want the execution of the Brotherhood. Execution for Morsi,” they yelled.
• The police headquarters assault is likely to encourage the state to crack down harder on the Muslim Brotherhood, which it accuses of terrorism, though the Brotherhood insists it is a peaceful movement.
Human rights groups accuse Egypt’s security forces of widespread human rights abuses in their attacks on the Brotherhood, which enjoys little sympathy on Cairo’s streets. Touring the bomb site, interior minister Mohammed Ibrahim called the bombings a “vile terrorist act” and, without naming the Brotherhood, said: “They will reach a point where co-existence will be impossible.”