Blasts kill 2 senior policemen near Egypt palace

CAIRO (AP) — Three homemade bombs went off near Egypt’s
presidential palace on Monday, killing two senior police officers and
injuring 10 other people on the anniversary of mass protests that led to
the ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.
The devices were
planted less than 20 meters (yards) away from the walls of the
Ittihadiya palace in the upscale Heliopolis district in eastern Cairo,
in what appeared to be a serious security breach in the heavily policed
area.
It was not immediately clear whether President Abdel-Fattah
el-Sissi, who as army chief ousted Morsi last summer, was inside the
palace when the explosions occurred.
In a nationally televised
speech from the palace later, el-Sissi said the government will spare no
effort to go after the culprits and will issue legislation to deter
those seeking to destabilize the country.
He did not elaborate,
but the government has drafted an anti-terrorism bill that has been
delayed by criticism from human rights organizations and liberal
politicians as well as the absence of an elected parliament.
"Black
terrorism is still trying to stand between the Egyptians’ will, their
hopes and aspirations, a terrorism that knows no religion or nation,"
el-Sissi said in a pre-recorded speech. "I promise God, their families
and their pure souls that the state will avenge their deaths justly and
fast."
El-Sissi stressed that the fight is a regional one, in
which he will be cooperating with Arab countries, pushing "new blood"
into joint action.
"We will continue to defend our religion and we will deal firmly and forcefully with reactionary
forces," he said.
The
government holds Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood group responsible for the
violence that followed his ouster, claiming is seeking to destabilize
the new order in cooperation with radical Islamists.
In a stunning
reversal of fortunes, the government declared the 86-year old group,
which rose to power after Egypt’s 2011 uprising, a terrorist
organization. It has arrested thousands of its members and froze the
assets of its senior leaders.
Hundreds of its members, including
Morsi, face trials on multiple charges such as inciting violence and
conspiring with foreign groups to undermine Egypt’s security.
The Brotherhood denies the charges, and says the accusations are part of a political crackdown seeking to
defame the group.
Saudi
Arabia and other rich Gulf countries also oppose the Brotherhood and
have supported el-Sissi’s overthrow of Morsi. They offered Egypt
substantial financial aid to meet a grueling economic crunch following
years of turmoil.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility
for the Monday blasts, which took place on the second day of the holy
month of Ramadan, but they bore the hallmarks of Islamic militant groups
sympathetic to Morsi. A militant group that has claimed responsibility
for previous attacks on police said in a statement dated June 27 that it
had planned to plant bombs around Ittihadiya but aborted the attack
earlier this month.
Ajnad Misr, or Soldiers of Egypt, said it
planted explosives near the palace on June 18 to hit its security
contingent. But it said it aborted the attack because civilians came
close to the explosives. It said its operatives were unable to retrieve
the devices but have been diverting civilians away from them. The
statement’s claims could not be verified and it was not clear if the
assertions were connected to Monday’s blasts.
Security officials
said the first bomb to go off Monday slightly wounded three street
cleaners, while a second and third exploded while bomb squad teams were
trying to defuse them, killing a police colonel and a
lieutenant-colonel, and wounding seven other people. Another device in
the area was discovered and safely defused, according to the officials,
who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to
speak to reporters.
An Associated Press video showed the immediate
aftermath of the second explosion, with plainclothes police carrying
away the dead colonel and an injured policeman as a cloud of white smoke
rose from the site.
Security forces sealed off roads leading to the palace.
On
the other side of town, security forces sealed off Tahrir Square —
epicenter of the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak
— to search for explosives.
Celebrations are expected there later
Monday to commemorate the start of several days of protests last year
in which millions demanded Morsi step down. The protests culminated in
Morsi’s removal by the military on July 3.
El-Sissi has since retired from the army and was elected president in May for a four-year term.
Meanwhile,
in a move that raises the possibility of renewed street violence, a
Brotherhood-led alliance called for nationwide protests on Thursday to
mark the anniversary of Morsi’s overthrow.
Past attempts by Morsi
supporters to stage mass street protests have been harshly dealt with by
security forces, part of the government crackdown that has over the
past year killed hundreds.
"July 3 will be a day of rage that will
be the beginning of the end, or a day of rage that paves the way for a
decisive stage," the so-called National Alliance for the Defense of
Legitimacy said in a Monday statement. It called on its supporters to
march to Tahrir square from 35 mosques in Cairo and pleaded with police
and army troops not to confront the protesters.