CAIRO — Four near-simultaneous small explosions went off in subway stations and outside a court building in Cairo today, wounding three people and causing widespread panic among morning commuters, officials said, in the first attacks since the election of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the former army chief who last year’s ouster of Islamist president.
Authorities quickly accused the Muslim Brotherhood of orchestrating the attacks, describing them as “desperate attempts” to disrupt the “prevailing state of stability.” The group, to which the ousted President Mohammed Morsi belonged, has denied involvement in any violence. But even some Islamists warn that young Brotherhood supporters could turn to attacks under pressure of a fierce crackdown on the group for nearly a year.
Three of the blasts, caused by homemade explosive devices, went off in separate subway stations in central and northern Cairo, and the fourth was a bomb that had been planted under a car outside a courthouse in the upscale Heliopolis district, Interior Ministry spokesman Hani Abdel-Latif said. In one of the subway attacks, one of the injured was a man who carried the explosive in his backpack, Abdel-Latif said. In another, the bomb was hidden in a garbage can.
A total of three people were injured in the attacks, Abdel-Latif said.
Police quickly sealed off stations and used sniffer dogs to search for more explosives. Abdel-Latif said that other bombs were found and defused outside the court building and in a fourth metro station.
He called the attacks a “desperate attempt by the Muslim Brotherhood terrorist organization to prove they still exist.”
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks — the first in the Egyptian capital since last month’s election of el-Sissi as the country’s new president.
El-Sissi led the military’s ouster of Morsi on July 3 after millions demonstrated against the Islamist president in the streets. Since then, Morsi’s supporters have staged near-daily protests demanding his return to power. Such demonstrations have usually been met by a fierce police crackdown, often turning into clashes. Hundreds of Morsi supporters have been killed and thousands detained.
At the same time, Islamic militants have stepped up attacks against the military and police across Egypt. The government branded the Brotherhood a terrorist organization, saying it was behing the militant campaign, a claim the group denies.
An al-Qaida-inspired group based in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, has claimed responsibility for most of the major attacks, including suicide bombings and attempted assassinations of top security officials. However, other groups believed to be connected to Morsi’s supporters have claimed responsibility for smaller attacks, which have mainly targeted riot police heading to disperse protesters.