Egyptian Army soldiers patrol in Sinai.
Egyptian Army soldiers on duty in northern Sinai. Photo by AP
Text size
related tags

A bomb blast near a court building in Cairo killed one policeman and wounded three others on Friday, shortly after two suicide bombers struck in Egypt's restive Sinai Peninsula in near-simultaneous attacks that killed two people and wounded nine.

Egyptian state TV said the mid-morning explosion in Cairo's eastern Heliopolis suburb targeted a traffic police post near the court. The state news agency MENA quoted police spokesman Abdel-Fattah Osman as saying that 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.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks but Islamic militants have carried out a series of bombings — with both crude devices and more sophisticated ones — in recent months, targeting Egypt's security forces and the military.

In restive 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, according to a Health Ministry statement.

The second bomber stepped out on a road and blew himself up in front of a bus. Four passengers were wounded from that explosion. The bus driver, Saad Sulieman, who was also hurt in the explosion and spoke to reporters from the el-Tor hospital, said he saw the bomber sitting on the side of the road with an ice box before he got up and detonated his explosives.

The bombers' body parts were scattered on both sites of the attacks and will be analyzed to determine their identities, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

The Sinai attacks followed a few months' lull in the northern region of the peninsula, where the military is waging a major offensive aimed at driving out militants who took control of several towns and villages in the area.

The region has witnessed a surge in attacks following the military's ouster last July of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. The military removed Morsi after millions of Egyptians rallied against his rule, a year after his election, and demanded he step down. The interim, military-backed government in turn stepped up its campaign against Morsi's supporters, killing hundreds and arresting thousands.

The government has branded the Muslim Brotherhood, a group from which Morsi hails, as a terrorist organization. The Islamist group denies any links to violence and the attacks in the country.

An al-Qaida 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 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 cities in the Nile Delta.

In a recent audio message, al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahri 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 also seen previous violence. 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 has plagued the northern part of the peninsula in the past six years. 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 target mostly traffic police, security guards or security forces.

The group — Ajnad Misr, or "Egypt's Soldiers" — first appeared in January and said that it is targeting police involved in curbing protests. Last month, it claimed responsibility for the assassination of a riot police commander, posting on its Facebook page photos of the slain officer before he was killed.