SHORTLY after surviving an assassination attempt unscathed, Egypt’s interior minister has warned that a wave of terrorism by opponents of the military-installed government was just beginning.
The minister, Mohamed Ibrahim, had been involved in overseeing a violent crackdown on supporters of Mohamed Morsi, the elected Islamist president who was overthrown two months ago by the army following mass protests against his rule.
No organisation immediately claimed responsibility for yesterday’s attack, the biggest yet on the new government.
Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood – accused by the government of terrorism and inciting violence – condemned it. However, it showed the risk that Egypt’s political crisis could spawn a wave of Islamist attacks like those in the 1980s and 1990s.
“What happened today is not the end but the beginning,” Mr Ibrahim said.
The head of Cairo security, Osama Al-Saghir, said the ambush began seconds after Mr Ibrahim left his house in the capital’s Nasr City on his way to work.
A car driving ahead of the convoy exploded and the minister’s armoured car also came under heavy gunfire, Mr Saghir told the newspaper Al-Ahram.
“The driver of the car bomb met his end, and the investigators found the remains of another body that are being examined,” he said.
Senior Brotherhood leader Amr Darrag issued a statement on behalf of the Brotherhood-led Anti-Coup Alliance saying it strongly condemned the attack.
Mr Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically-elected president, was overthrown on 3 July. The new authorities have imposed a state of emergency and nightly curfews, and Mr Morsi and most of the Brotherhood’s leaders have been arrested.
More than 900 of its supporters have been killed, many of them when security forces attacked pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo on 14 August, and at least 2,000 rounded up. About 100 members of the security forces have also been killed in the political violence.
The Muslim Brotherhood says it is committed to peaceful resistance and has twice in the last week brought thousands onto the streets to denounce what it calls a coup against democracy.
Mr Ibrahim said earlier this week he had been informed of plans to kill him and that “foreign elements” were involved.
There were conflicting reports about the nature of yesterday’s attack.
Security sources said that three bombs planted inside a motorcycle had detonated as Mr Ibrahim’s convoy passed by. State TV reported a bomb had been thrown from a roof.
Mr Ibrahim said a police officer was in critical condition and that another officer and a child had lost legs.
State media said 22 people had been wounded.
Security forces quickly sealed off the area, where blood and flesh were scattered on the ground amid the charred wreckage of several cars.
“I was standing by a kiosk when police officers came and told me to make way as the minister’s convoy passed. I moved a few inches, then I heard a huge explosion,” said resident Mohamed Raafat.
“I looked behind and I saw remains of dead bodies and was told that a car that was parking had exploded near the convoy.”
Many Egyptians have expressed support for the crackdown.
However, the Brotherhood, which came to power in elections following the overthrow of general-turned-president Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, says the allegations of terrorism are a pretext for neutralising it and returning Egypt to the repression of the Mubarak era.
“This is sad,” said bystander Ahmed Mahmoud, 32. “When they use violence to disperse protesters, despite our opinion of those Brotherhood protesters, what did they expect to get in return? Peace and prosperity? They will only get more violence.”