CAIRO — The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a powerful explosion outside the Italian Consulate’s compound in downtown Cairo early Saturday that killed one person and was the first major bombing of a foreign diplomatic mission since the start of an insurgency here nearly two years ago.
The explosion, which occurred about 6:15 a.m., jolted residents awake across the city and brought down slabs of the consulate’s outer walls. Initial reports from state television said the explosion was caused by a car bomb that had detonated near one of Cairo’s busiest intersections and under a major bridge.
A statement by the Islamic State that was circulated on jihadist Twitter accounts on Saturday said the group’s “soldiers” had carried out the attack, using a 450-kilogram car bomb. The statement warned Muslims to stay away from “security dens” because they were “legitimate targets.”
The bombing of a foreign consulate represented a painful milestone for the government in its struggle to contain an expanding insurgency that has mounted a series of recent, spectacular attacks. Over the past few weeks, militants have assassinated the country’s top prosecutor, carried out a large-scale assault on troops stationed in the Sinai Peninsula and tried to attack Egypt’s best-known tourist attractions.
The tenacity of the militants has undermined promises of greater security by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a former general who led the military takeover of the government two years ago and has drawn support from Egyptians weary of protests and political turmoil.
Mr. Sisi’s government has responded to the violence with tough words and by proposing stringent laws that officials assert will help the authorities fight militants. Human rights groups have criticized the measures, including an antiterrorism law, as misdirected and say they allow the government greater latitude to punish political opponents, journalists and civil rights groups.
The attack on Saturday raised new questions about whether the government’s strategy — including its sweeping crackdown on dissidents — could tame the insurgency. Rather, the militants appeared to be broadening the scope of their attacks after months of targeting the security services and killing hundreds of police officers and soldiers.
Unlike previous statements, the claim of responsibility for the bombing on Saturday did not carry the logo of the “Sinai Province,” an Egyptian group based in the Sinai Peninsula that has claimed responsibility for several deadly attacks and last year declared its affiliation with the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. It was not clear whether the logo on the latest statement — which said “Islamic State, Egypt” — was meant to announce the arrival of a new group.
The statement did not say why the Italian Consulate had been targeted. The compound was far less heavily fortified than other Western diplomatic missions.
An Italian diplomat told The Associated Press that the consulate was closed at the time and that no staff members were wounded.
At least nine people were wounded, including a police officer and three passers-by who were from the same family, a Health Ministry spokesman said.
This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service – if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.
(via NY Times)