Buried bombs outside Cairo University kill top police official

Bomb blasts Wednesday near Cairo University killed a brigadier general and wounded five other people, resurrecting fears that a violent campaign against government forces will grow as Egypt approaches presidential elections.

Ajnad Misr, or Soldiers of Egypt, a relatively new jihadist group that’s carried out a number of attacks on police officials in Cairo, claimed responsibility for the three explosions, one of which claimed the life of Brig. Gen. Tareq el-Margawy. The group, which has Facebook and Twitter pages, calls members of the security forces “criminals” and has said it works to spare civilians. It largely succeeded Wednesday; most of the wounded were police officers.

According to Interior Ministry statistics, roughly 500 police officers have been killed since July 3, when the country’s military, led by then-Defense Minister Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, ousted President Mohammed Morsi. A harsh crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, through which Morsi rose to prominence, has killed thousands of Morsi supporters in the same period. An estimated 16,000 people accused of sympathizing with the Brotherhood have been jailed.

In a statement posted hours after the attack, Ajnad Misr said it had targeted el-Margawy because of his role in the violent clearing of one of two sit-ins in support of Morsi on Aug. 14, the bloodiest day in the crackdown, when more than 1,100 people were killed.

The group’s statement said el-Margawy “was well known for killing innocent people and taking part in Nahda massacre,” a reference to one of the sit-ins. The other, better-known sit-in was in Cairo’s Rabaa district.

The group also said it was angry about the police’s increased arrests and assaults on women and young people. “We are honored to dedicate the attack to them,” the statement read. “We promise that we will not rest as long as one of you is held.”

The location of two of the bombs – buried in a hole directly in front of a police outpost at Cairo University – suggested that the government’s grip on security is tenuous at best. A third bomb wounded no one; Ajnad Misr said that was because its detonation was delayed until civilians had left the area.

The twin bombs at the police outpost were detonated one right after the other at around noon, apparently by remote control. They left a deep crater in front of the outpost. The third bomb went off about an hour later in front of the university’s main entrance, long after the area had been cleared of passers-by.

The three explosions scattered debris across a wide area, including shards of glass from the police outpost, bits of a damaged car parked in front of the outpost and pieces of a wooden chair.

The explosions reinforced fears that el-Sissi’s decision to run for president in the May 25-26 election, which he announced last week, would lead to greater violence in this deeply polarized nation. Many hold el-Sissi responsible for Morsi’s demise. The result has been a tit-for-tat battle between insurgents and government forces.

The bombings also revealed growing dissatisfaction at the government’s inability to halt the attacks on police. Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim, who was appointed by Morsi and survived his ouster, was a special target for insult.

“If he had any feelings he would resign,” Sameh el-Masry, 40, an automotive engineer, yelled as he passed by the scene, referring to Ibrahim. El-Masry ticked off the places of other attacks. “How many police headquarters were attacked in the exact same way, Northern Sinai, Cairo, Daqahlyya?”

“We are stuck in between the Muslim Brotherhood and the leaders of the police,” el-Masry said.

Ismail is a McClatchy special correspondent. Nancy A. Youssef contributed to this report.

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