Three explosions killed five people and injured nearly 70 in Cairo today, marking the deadliest attack on Egypt's capital in months and continuing a trend of anti-police violence in the country.
Update: The Associated Press is reporting a fourth explosion in Cairo:
BREAKING: Egypt state TV says 4th explosion has gone off near movie theater in capital, 1 dead.— The Associated Press (@AP) January 24, 2014
The AP reports that according to officials, a standalone bomb exploded on Haram Street (which leads to the Giza Pyramids) killing one officer in a passing police convoy. The convoy was leaving a nearby pro-Morsi rally, where officials were clashing with the protesters. According to the BBC, that brings the death toll in Cairo today up to 6, with the number injured up to roughly 100.
A suicide attacker detonated a car bomb early this morning outside of police headquarters in central Cairo, killing five and injuring 51. The strike was soon followed by another explosion that killed one police officer and wounded 9 in another Cairo neighborhood, and then another near a police station in Giza, on the outskirts of Cairo, that thankfully did not harm anyone.
The initial blast also severely damaged a 19th-century Islamic art museum. Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim told the BBC that "The building has been destroyed from the outside, but with regards to the antiquities we'll have to wait and see until we can carry out a thorough inspection."
According to the BBC, the al-Qaeda-like Ansar Beit al-Maqdis claimed responsibility for the first explosion. The group, which has launched rocket attacks against Israel from the Sinai, carried out a strike on a police compound in Mansoura back in December which killed 16 and injured more than 100. The group says it is acting in retaliation for the killing of Muslim Brotherhood supporters. After the July ouster of Muslim Brotherhood leader and then-Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, hundreds of his supporters were killed in police crackdowns on pro-Brotherhood rallies. Though the Muslim Brotherhood has denied affiliation with the Ansar Beit al-Maqdis and denounced today's blasts, Egyptian officials suspect them of having ties with the group and declared the Brotherhood a terrorist organization soon after the December attack. Whether or not the Brotherhood was directly involved, now it seems the most extreme elements or of the anti-military movement have begun to their fight to a more disturbing level, one rarely seen even in the darkest days of the Mubarak regime.
The violence follows Egypt's National Police Day celebration and precedes by one day the third anniversary of the first "Arab Spring" protest against former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, who was removed by the military several months later. The removal was hailed as a success at the time, leading to the country's first democratic election, of Morsi.
Though calls for Morsi to step down initially came from a grassroots movement of Egyptians disappointed by his leadership, his removal and subsequent imprisonment have some fearing that Egyptian security forces are seizing too much power. Reuters reported in October that Egyptian police heavily influenced by the military long-considered Egypt's most stable governing body, to remove Morsi from power.
Demonstrations both for and against the removed leader will be held after Friday evening prayers, and though officials have said they are prepared for the event, today's attack is making for a even more tense situation.
Last week, Egyptians voted in a new constitution, part of an Egyptian roadmap devised by the military to rebuild the government in Morsi's absence. The suspiciously high approval rate (over 98 percent of voting Egyptians reportedly opted for the new constitution) has raised further concerns over Egyptians' political freedom. Only 38.6 percent of eligible voters took to the polls, and the Muslim Brotherhood's designation as a terrorist group means that Brotherhood supporters essentially have nobody to vote for. Most boycotted the entire vote.
Still, Egypt's interim Prime Minister Hazem Beblawi told the BBC that supporters could participate in the vote, slated to be held sometime in the next six months, if "he accepts the new constitution... refuses the use of force and he accepts the idea of a secular government, democratic one, open, no discrimination, no mixing of religion and politics and accept human rights." Reasonable enough, except there's no reason to believe that the candidates allowed to run will be able to secure an open, non-discriminatory, democratic government.