Egypt Says Islamist Militants Behind Cairo Blast That Killed 20

(Bloomberg) -- Egypt’s government said Islamist militants were behind a blast that killed at least 20 people in central Cairo, one of the deadliest acts of violence by extremists in the North African nation’s capital in years.

Militants were transporting an explosives-laden vehicle for an attack when it detonated outside the National Cancer Institute late on Sunday, the Interior Ministry said in a statement. Forty-seven other people were wounded in the blast, which was initially said to be caused by a car accident.

Video footage of the aftermath showed patients lying on the street outside the partially evacuated hospital as a fire raged in the background and smoke billowed near the Nile River.

President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi described the event as a “cowardly terrorist incident,” and said the Egyptian state was committed to “confront and uproot brutal terrorism.” The Interior Ministry identified the perpetrators as the Hasm movement, a group that’s carried out previous attacks and is linked to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

The carnage was a stark sign of the challenge still confronting Sisi’s government as it wages a years-long campaign against militant groups, including those affiliated with Islamic State. While much of the violence has been in North Sinai, extremists have struck far beyond the peninsula, targeting local Christians as well as tourists.

The last significant assault in greater Cairo was in May, when a roadside bombing targeting a tour bus near the Giza pyramids wounded at least 16 people. It came as authorities touted a revival of tourism, a key foreign-exchange generator that struggled in the aftermath of the 2011 uprising that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak.

In the worst single attack on tourists, an Islamic State affiliate in late 2015 claimed responsibility for downing a Russian charter flight leaving the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh in South Sinai. All 224 people on board were killed.

El-Sisi ousted a Brotherhood-backed president in 2013 amid a popular uprising when he was army commander. Elected head of state the following year, he has carried out a wide-ranging crackdown that’s jailed tens of thousands of Islamists.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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