exploded in a busy intersection near schools in the Egyptian capital Cairo on
Thursday, hitting a bus and wounding five people in an attack that raised
concerns that a wave of violence blamed on Islamic militants that has targeted
security forces and military for months is increasingly turning to hit
The blast came a day
after the government declared its top political nemesis, the Muslim Brotherhood,
a terrorist organization, accusing it of being behind the violence. The
declaration steps up the crackdown on the group since the military ousted
Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in July. On Thursday Interior Ministry
spokesman warned that leading a Brotherhood
protest was now punishable by life in prison under anti-terrorism laws.
The Brotherhood has denied the claim, saying the
government is trying to scapegoat it, and called for increased protests.
Since Morsi's July 4
ouster and the subsequent crackdown on his Brotherhood
and other Islamist supporters, a nascent insurgency by Islamic militants has
ambushes and other attacks have mainly targeted security forces and troops in
the Sinai Peninsula, but the attacks have also spread to Cairo and other parts
of the country. Thursday's was only the second bombing seemingly aimed at
solely civilian targets, after a similar bomb in the same area last week. The
deadliest bombing yet came on Tuesday, when a suicide car bomber hit a security
headquarters in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura, killing 16 people, almost all
With the declaration
Wednesday, the government claimed the Brotherhood
was ultimately behind the campaign of violence - and even violence dating back for
years. But it has offered no public evidence.
In Thursday's attack,
a homemade bomb planted in a main intersection went off at 9 a.m. as a public
bus passed in the eastern Cairo district of Nasr City, Interior Ministry said
in a statement. Authorities then found and defused at least one more
remote-control bomb attached to an advertisement billboard, apparently intended
to hit security forces who responded to the first, state TV reported.
shattered windows on the bus, and flying glass injured five people, one of them
seriously, the ministry said.
Abdel-Fatah Osman told state TV said that the bomb was planted near a school
complex "to terrorize people and cause chaos." The bomb appeared to
be cause panic, not to cause casualties, since it was designed to mainly
produce a large noise, the ministry's top explosives expert Gen. Alaa
Abdel-Zaher told private CBC television.
The site is also near
student dormitories of the Islamic Al-Azhar University, which have been the
scene of near daily protests by Brotherhood
students against Egypt's military-backed interim government. The protests have
repeatedly turned into clashes with security forces.
implementation of the government's declaration Wednesday, the Brotherhood's daily newspaper, Freedom and
Justice, was suspended after security forces confiscated Thursday's edition at
the print shop.
At least 54 members
of the group were arrested in six provinces in connection to attacks on police
stations, inciting riots and violence, the Interior Ministry said.
The Brotherhood, which formally renounced violence
in the 1970s, was for years the country's most powerful political force. After
the 2011 ouster of autocrat Hosni Mubarak, it won a series of elections,
gaining dominance in parliament and elevating Morsi, one of its own, to the
The military removed
Morsi after massive nationwide protests against him and against the Brotherhood. It then launched a heavy
crackdown on the group, killing hundreds of pro-Morsi protesters and arresting
thousands of Brotherhood members. At
the same time, militant violence swelled, along with attacks by apparent Morsi
supporters against government buildings and churches.
The Brotherhood and its Islamist allies have
continued small but daily protests demanding Morsi's reinstatement and
denouncing what they call an illegal coup against democracy. At the same time,
the government is pushing ahead with a transition plan, calling a Jan. 14-15
referendum on a revised constitution.
authorities have depicted the Brotherhood
as fueling violence. Morsi and several Brotherhood
leaders are already on trial on various charges of inciting violence, and last
week, a new trial of the ousted leader and more than 30 others was announced on
charges of conspiring with terrorist groups before, during and after Morsi's
But the terrorism
label takes it to a new level. Membership in the group could now be grounds for
arrest on terrorism charges, and authorities can act against the vast network
of businesses and charities linked to the group.
A 1986 terrorism law
imposes a possible death sentence for leading terrorist groups and other linked
crimes. Hani Abdel-Latif, another Interior Ministry spokesman, said those who
lead Brotherhood protests could be
sentenced to life in prison, while those who participate in them could get up
to five years in prison, according to state TV.
groups based in Sinai have claimed responsibility for previous bombings and
shooting against security forces and the military. The most prominent militant
group, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, announced it carried out Tuesday's suicide bombing
in Mansoura to avenge the "shedding of innocent Muslim blood" at the hands of Egypt's "apostate
regime" - a reference to the security forces' crackdown on Islamists
following the coup.
But security experts
have warned that young members of the Brotherhood
may turn to violence in retaliation for the government's killings of group's
supporters, imprisonment of top leaders and declaration of the group as a
In a statement late
Wednesday, the Brotherhood-led
alliance vowed to "qualitatively" escalate the demonstrations to
"wear down the thugs and defeat the terrorist coup."
"Today we are at
the doorstep of a turning point in the revolutionary escalation after the coup
leaders insisted on terrorism and violence. Hold your strong faith of your
cause and your revolution," it said. It called on people to rally against
the new draft constitution.
The group accused the
coup leaders of "devouring their own sons in the military and police in
order to survive" - reflecting its rhetoric that bombings and other
attacks are orchestrated by security agencies to justify a crackdown on the Brotherhood.