Update: Fourth blast reported in Haram

At least one person is dead after an explosion outside the Radoubis Cinema in the Haram area of Giza around 5 pm, state newspaper Al-Ahram reported. The blast followed a string of three explosions in Cairo that killed at least five people and injured dozens Friday, the eve of the third anniversary of mass protests that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak and marked the beginning of a turbulent period of political instability.

At least 76 were injured after a massive blast hit the Cairo Security Directorate at 6:30 am in the downtown Abdeen neighborhood, according to the Health Ministry.

Hours later, a second explosion was heard in front of the Behooth metro station in the Giza neighborhood of Dokki at roughly 9 am. The Health Ministry reported that at least one died and eight were injured in the blast. According to a Mada Masr reporter who was on the scene, eyewitnesses said around 10 people were injured, most of them police officers.

There were no reported casualties or injuries after a third blast near the Talbeya police station in the Giza neighborhood of Haram, which struck shortly after 10 am. 

However, by 2 pm clashes had broken out in the area between Muslim Brotherhood supporters and Talbeya residents, the privately owned satellite channel CBC Extra reported. 

Medhat Sahar, the head of the Police Hospital in Agouza, spoke in a press conference broadcast on the privately owned ONtv channel to address the injuries inflicted by the bombings. He said the Police Hospital had so far treated 20 patients, all of whom were officers and soldiers. Thirteen of the patients had already been released and seven remained hospitalized.

The most critical cases included two major injuries to the chest, two brain injuries and a severe eye injury, Sahar said.

The Egyptian Cabinet tweeted that the security directorate blast in Abdeen was caused by a car bomb. Later, security officials told state TV that at least 450 kilograms of explosives were used in the attack. The explosion left a hole in the ground 2.5 meters deep and 6 meters wide, according to prosecutors.  

Prosecutors have ordered the DNA analysis of a body suspected to belong to a suicide bomber, who is believed to have detonated the explosion from inside a vehicle, MENA reported. They reportedly identified debris from a truck in a blast pattern wider than rubble from other cars at the scene, indicating it may have been used in the bombing. 

The report claimed that the victim was in his 30s and had “the remains of a beard.”

The Interior Ministry’s spokesperson, General Hani Abdelattif, told the privately owned television channel CBC that leading officials in the ministry had spent Thursday night in the directorate building.

Residents living in western neighborhoods of Cairo such as Giza and Mohandiseen woke up to the sound of the first explosion, as well as those living in areas distant from the blast, such as Moqattam and Maadi south of Cairo. Gunfire around the time of the attack was also reported by several witnesses in Abdeen.

The Behooth blast was much smaller in scale and caused minimal damage to nearby buildings, according to the reporter. An eyewitness who suffered a small wound to his head from the explosion told Mada that the device detonated in front of three Central Security Forces vehicles. Security forces quickly arrived at the scene and cordoned off the area.

Several explosions have shaken Egypt in the last weeks, as political instability continues to worsen in the aftermath of the Muslim Brotherhood’s removal from power last July and the rise of a pro-military regime. The attack on the security building was one of the largest in a string of related incidents in the capital since former President Mohamed Morsi’s ouster. An assassination attempt on the Interior Minister using a car bomb failed in early September, injuring dozens and killing the alleged perpetrator.

Friday’s explosions occurred just a day ahead of the commemoration of the January 25, 2011 revolution, when protesters took to the streets against the Mubarak government and the police state. In a speech marking the anniversary on Thursday, interim President Adly Mansour said that the era of the police state was over, and that “extremist forces” would be defeated.

In the same vein, Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim told state TV that the bombings would not stop the police from continuing in the war against “black terrorism,” or stop the Egyptian people from celebrating the January 25 anniversary on Saturday, reported the state-owned news site Egynews.

After the first explosion detonated, civil defense forces arrived at the Port Said Street area where the security directorate is located, the privately owned newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm reported. Witnesses reported injured people being transferred out of the scene in ambulances, while men on motorbikes fired random shots.

By early Friday afternoon, a Mada Masr reporter said that dozens had gathered at the site of the attack and were freely walking through the area, even approaching the door of the directorate building, which had earlier been cordoned off by police tape.

Prosecutor General Hesham Barakat visited the Abdeen site with a team of 15 other prosecutors, and left shortly after 12 pm. A second team of prosecutors had already been deployed to inspect the Behooth site.

People gathered in front of the security directorate shouted indictments at the prosecutor for failing to protect the building and demanding the execution of the Muslim Brotherhood, according to Mada Masr’s reporter. 

Meanwhile, a truck arrived with workers to repair a water main in the street that had burst in the attack. Twitter users posted a photo of a crater filled with water in the street in front of the directorate building, allegedly created by the impact of the explosion.

Security sources said that the building’s facade was destroyed, according to Al-Masry Al-Youm. The newspaper posted a photo of the damaged facade on Twitter.

However, Ibrahim told state TV that the attack on the building caused only minor destruction.

Ahmed Sharaf, the head of the Egyptian museums division of the Antiquities Ministry, told the state-owned Middle East News Agency (MENA) that the Islamic Art Museum located next to the directorate building also incurred severe damages in the attack.

Mada Masr’s reporter said the authorities were attempting to board up the decimated entrance to the building with scraps of wood.

The museum’s facade, doors, windows and false ceilings were completely destroyed, and many of the museum’s artifacts were shattered due to the force of the explosion. The entire electronic security system was obliterated as well, according to Sharaf. 

The official said the surviving pieces of the museum’s collection were being transferred out of the bomb site.

No one has yet taken responsibility for Friday morning’s attack, but popular opinion quickly pinned the blame on the recently banned Muslim Brotherhood group, which the Cabinet declared an illegal terrorist organization last month.

In Abdeen, dozens of bystanders chanted their support for Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and shouted insults against the Muslim Brotherhood. Some of those gathered told Mada Masr’s reporter that Egypt needs Sisi to run for president, because the country needs an iron fist to combat terrorism.

At the scene of the Behooth blast, dozens chanted for the “execution of the Muslim Brotherhood,” and also urged Sisi to run for president.

But late Friday morning the Brotherhood tweeted that it condemned the bombings, calling them “cowardly.”

recent bombing at a security building in Mansoura was also blamed on the Muslim Brotherhood, but Ansar Beit al-Maqdes, a Sinai-based militant group, claimed responsibility for that blast. 

Hours before Friday’s attacks, an audio recording published under the name of Ansar Beit al-Maqdes was posted to Jihadi internet forums. The recording did not refer to Friday’s bombings, but did issue a warning to security forces.  

Mada Masr was not able to verify the recording. David Barnett, a research associate that tracks the group at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a conservative think tank, asserted that the video was “100 percent authentic.” He said the personality who read the statement in the recording, Abu Osama al-Masry, had not appeared in previous statements issued by the militant organization.

Another bomb was also detonated by security forces in Port Said, according to the privately-owned channel ONtv.

Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim met with various leaders of political parties to discuss the plan for securing demonstrations and rallies on the January 25 revolution anniversary, according to a ministry statement.

Al-Ahram also reported that Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi said that the state will take all necessary measures to protect Egyptians from terrorism, though he did not specify the nature of those measures.

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