On August 4th, a car packed with explosives went off in Egypt’s capital Cairo, killing at least 20 and injuring 47.
The Interior Ministry released a statement on August 5th, saying that the the car was driving in the wrong direction the night before when it collided with three other vehicles, causing a major blast in front of Cairo’s Cancer Institute.
“The car contained explosives, and the collision led to their detonation,” the ministry said. “It is estimated that the car was being transported to a location for use in the execution of a terrorist operation.”
The Ministry of Health also announced that it had evacuated patients from the Institute following the explosion.
Khaled Megahed, a spokesman for the health ministry, said at a press conference on August 5 that patients in the ICU suffered “several burns of varying degrees.”
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi called the explosion a “cowardly terrorist” incident in a statement published on Facebook, extending condolences and praising Egyptian solidarity in the face of the tragedy.
“I extend my deepest condolences to the Egyptian people and the families of the martyrs killed in the cowardly terrorist incident … last night.”
اتقدم بخالص التعازى للشعب المصرى ولأسر الشهداء الذين سقطوا نتيجة الحادث الإرهابى الجبان فى محيط منطقة القصر العينى مساء…
ما أجمل حسن التكاتف والتكافل في مواجهة قبح تأثير الإرهاب، وأنا أرى تسارع وتسابق وتضامن الجميع سواء من أشقائنا العرب أو…
No group has claimed responsibility, but the Interior Ministry blamed the so-called Hasm Movement for rigging the car with explosives. It is unclear whether the explosion happened at the right place or it simply went off prematurely. Potentially, the explosives may have simply been transported from one place to another and to be used in a future attack.
Hasm, which emerged in 2016 has claimed responsibility for several attacks, and Egypt accuses it of being a wing of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. The movement denies this and says it seeks change through ‘peaceful means’ only – despite claiming responsibility for several past terror attacks.
According to the Ministry of Health, the explosion outside the Institute, located in El Manial area, also caused damage to facilities inside the Institute.
Al Jazeera cited Timothy Kaldas, a non-resident fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, according to him it was unlikely that Egyptian authorities had enough evidence to blame Hasm.
“The Hasm group has been largely inactive for the last couple of years. You hear from them occasionally but they haven’t been nearly as active as they have been in the past. It would be surprising to see them re-emerge on the scene,” Kaldas said.
“It is also just possible that the government chose to blame them initially because the government sees them as an extension of the Muslim Brotherhood’s leadership, and so it’s just a way for them to pin the blame on the Brotherhood from the outset.
“It’s very possible that this could have been a different group.”
The European Union expressed condolences of the incident, and reassured its support of defeating terrorism in Egypt.
The security situation in Egypt has remained tense in 2019, most recently around the end of July, Lufthansa and British Airways canceled flights to Cairo over the weekend, citing security concerns.
The situation is most unstable in North Sinai, where the Egyptian Armed Forces continue their anti-terrorist sweep.
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