Cairo bomb wounds 5 as Egypt widens crackdown on Islamists
CAIRO - Agence France-Presse
A member of the media films a damaged bus after a bomb blast near the Al-Azhar University campus in Cairo's Nasr City district December 26, 2013. REUTERS photoA bomb exploded near a bus in Cairo Thursday wounding five people, a day after the government widened a crackdown on Islamists by declaring the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group.
The windows of the red and black public transport bus were shattered in the explosion at a busy intersection in the north Cairo neighbourhood of Nasr City.
Police defused a second bomb and cordoned off the area as sniffer dogs searched for more explosive devices, an AFP correspondent said.
The bombing came a day after the military-installed government declared the Muslim Brotherhood, the movement of deposed president Mohamed Morsi, a terrorist organisation, and after a suicide car bomber killed 15 people at a police building north of Cairo.
The interior ministry said the attack was meant to intimidate voters ahead of a referendum next month on a new constitution, billed as the first step in a democratic transition ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections.
A police general, Mohamed Gamal, showed a defused pipe bomb to reporters, saying it had been placed in a billboard and was primed to explode when police arrived at the site of the first bombing.
"It was set to go off remotely," interior ministry spokesman Hany Abdel Latif told AFP, adding the bombs were "meant to terrorise people before the referendum".
A witness described scenes of panic after the attack.
"I was 100 metres (yards) away when I heard the explosion. I came running to help the wounded," said Mahmud Abd al-Al, a construction worker.
"They were covered in blood. One man lost a leg," he said.
A health ministry official said five people were wounded in the attack.
Dozens of angry men and women chanted slogans against the Muslim Brotherhood as police tried to keep them away from the site of the blast while forensic experts searched for clues inside the bus.
"The Muslim Brotherhood people are dogs," chanted 40-year-old Fadiya as police pushed her away.
"My country is bleeding. Everybody is scared now in Egypt, even the police are scared," she said as several men and women took pictures of the bus with their mobile phones.
Residents of Cairo expressed fear after the bombing.
"This is not the city I used to know," said taxi driver Ihab Abdelmoneim commenting on the attack.
"Today, I am scared of the passenger who sits in my taxi and he is scared of me," he added.
The Brotherhood, which prevailed in all elections since the 2011 ouster of Hosni Mubarak and organises near daily protests demanding Morsi's reinstatement, insists it is peaceful and has condemned militant attacks.
It was declared a terrorist group after Tuesday's bombing of a police headquarters that killed 15 people in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura, although an Al-Qaeda-inspired group in the Sinai peninsula said it was responsible.
Thursday's bombing in Cairo appears to be the first against civilians, although it could have been meant for another target and exploded prematurely.
A suicide bomber had set off a car bomb in September in the same neighbourhood in an attempt to assassinate interior minister Mohamed Ibrahim as his convoy passed by.
The minister survived but a bystander was killed in the explosion.
The interior ministry said the Brotherhood's designation as terrorist group meant that whoever participates in its protests faces a jail term of five years, while those owning publications, recordings or propaganda material of the group face jail terms of up to five years.
The authorities also shut down the newspaper run by the Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of the Islamist group, and seized several presses belonging to the movement, the interior ministry said.
Militants have killed scores of policemen and soldiers in attacks mostly in the Sinai Peninsula since the military's overthrow of Morsi in July.
The deadliest attacks, including Tuesday's bombing, have been claimed by the Al-Qaeda-inspired Ansar Beit al-Maqdis group based in the restive Sinai.
The group which is composed mostly of Egyptian Bedouin has been critical of the Brotherhood's style of political Islam and advocates armed attacks.
Authorities say there are links between the Sinai jihadists and Morsi's more moderate Muslim Brotherhood movement, but have offered no proof.
Morsi and top Brotherhood leaders, imprisoned in a crackdown following his overthrow, are charged with colluding with militant groups to launch attacks in the country.
Since Morsi's ouster, more than 1,000 people, mostly Islamists, have been killed in a police crackdown and thousands imprisoned.