December 29, 2013
Ariel Ben Solomon, Reuters
A bomb targeted an Egyptian military intelligence building north of Cairo on Sunday, wounding four soldiers, the army said, in the second bomb attack on the security forces in the Nile Delta in less than a week.
The bomb went off near an entrance to the building in the village of Anshas, 100 km. north of Cairo in Sharkiya province. It partially destroyed the back wall of the building, the army said, describing it as a terrorist attack.
The incident follows a suicide bomb attack on Tuesday on a police compound in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura that killed 16 people. The army-backed government has said the violence will not derail a political transition plan whose next step is a mid-January referendum on a new constitution.
Sunday’s blast, about 80 km. north of the site of Tuesday’s bombing, pointed to the widening reach of terrorist attacks that have become commonplace since the army deposed president Mohamed Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood, in July. Bombings and shootings have killed around 350 police and soldiers since the coup, mostly in Sinai, where Islamist radicals expanded into a security vacuum left by the Hosni Mubarak’s downfall in 2011.
Security forces killed hundreds of Morsi’s supporters in the months after his removal, and have arrested thousands more.
Already high political tensions escalated further with last week’s suicide attack. The Brotherhood condemned the attack, and a radical Sinaibased group called Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis claimed responsibility, but the state declared the Brotherhood a terrorist organization a day later. The government has arrested several hundred of the Brotherhood’s supporters in its widening crackdown on the group.
Turkey’s Anadolu Agency reported on Saturday that three senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders fled Egypt through an illegal border crossing, in a sign that the group may be changing its strategy and seeking to run its opposition to the Egyptian government from abroad.
Two security sources described Sunday’s bomb as an explosive device, while the state-run Nile TV channel said it was a car bomb. Sources previously said it went off in the town of Belbeis, near Anshas.
On Thursday, a bomb that went off near a bus in Cairo wounded five people. That bomb appeared to be the first targeting civilians, though there was no claim of responsibility saying what had been targeted.
Authorities said in the past few days that they had defused several other bombs. On Sunday, police found and defused a crude homemade bomb inside a bag left outside a university building in the Nile Delta city of Damietta.
Some analysts say Egypt faces the risk of a protracted spell of Islamist attacks, as well as civil strife fueled by friction between supporters and opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Street clashes have killed seven people in the past three days.
Student protesters battled police for a third day at Al-Azhar University, where the Brotherhood has rallied support in recent months, putting the prestigious institution at the heart of its struggle to keep its cause alive.
Students allied to the Brotherhood say they are boycotting end-of-term exams to protest the killing of classmates by security forces.
The government has declared itself in “a war on terror” as it steers Egypt through a transition plan expected to yield presidential and parliamentary elections next year.
Army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who led Morsi’s overthrow, is widely seen as the favorite to win that election, though he has yet to declare his candidacy.
Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has claimed responsibility for several major attacks since Morsi’s downfall, including a failed attempt to assassinate the interior minister in September.
The group emerged in North Sinai after Mubarak’s downfall, mounting attacks including a string of bombings targeting a pipeline used to export gas to Israel and Jordan.
“There will be more [attacks]. I don’t think that any factor has changed that would lessen the attacks at least in the shortterm,” said H.A. Hellyer, a Cairo- based fellow with the Royal United Services Institute.
“Those that oppose the army and want to see Morsi’s reinstatement go beyond the Muslim Brotherhood – and it is likely some non-Brotherhood Islamists have turned to violence, including, but not exclusively, those within the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis group.”