Blast Leaves One Dead Outside Italian Consulate in Cairo

Reuters
The Associated Press
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Blast at the Italian Consulate is seen in Cairo, Egypt, July 11, 2015. Credit: Reuters
Reuters
The Associated Press

A huge explosion occurred in front of the Italian consulate in central Cairo, Egypt on Saturday, killing one person, the health ministry and security officials said, raising the possibility that Islamist militants could open a new front against foreigners. 

A security official told Reuters the blast was caused by a car bomb. State news agency MENA cited a senior security source as saying preliminary investigations indicated that a bomb was placed under a car near the consulate and remotely detonated. 

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the early morning blast, which Reuters witnesses said caused heavy damage to the consulate. It shook other buildings downtown and could be heard in several surrounding neighbourhoods. 

The identity of the person killed was not immediately clear. A health ministry spokesman said four civilians were wounded. MENA separately said two policemen were among the wounded.

Italy's Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said there were no Italian victims in the blast. "Italy will not be intimidated," he said on Twitter. 

Egyptian policemen at site of blast at Italian consulate in Cairo. July 11, 2015. (AP)

Islamist militants have carried out roadside bombs and suicide bombing attacks which have so far targeted members of the security forces and officials.

The violence, and political turmoil triggered by the 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak, have hurt Egypt's tourism industry, a pillar of the economy.

Media reports said an Egyptian was wounded by the blast. The blast occurred early in the morning on a weekend during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan - a time of day when there is little congestion.

The MENA report cited witnesses as saying the explosion had caused massive destruction to the building. The force of the blast shook a building in downtown Cairo and could be heard in many neighborhoods.

A Western diplomat said he was aware of the explosion in front of the consulate but could not confirm that the building was the target.

A Sinai-based insurgency has escalated since the army ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi after mass protests against his rule in 2013.

Two weeks ago, a car bomb killed the country's top public prosecutor and militants affiliated to Islamic State attacked several military checkpoints in North Sinai, in what was the fiercest fighting in the region in years.

The army said 17 soldiers and more than 100 militants were killed in those clashes.

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