Cairo attack on soldiers blamed on Islamists

2014-03-15 11:57
(Ahmed Gomaa, AP)

(Ahmed Gomaa, AP)

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Cairo - Gunmen killed five soldiers at a Cairo checkpoint on Saturday in a brazen morning attack the military blamed on the Muslim Brotherhood movement of deposed president Mohammed Morsi.

The attack came two days after gunmen killed a soldier in Cairo, as militants once largely confined to the restive Sinai Peninsula increasingly target the capital in a campaign that has killed more than 200 police and soldiers since the army overthrew Morsi last July.

The assailants on Saturday opened fire on military policemen as they finished their morning prayers and then planted two bombs to target first responders, the military said in a statement.

Live television footage showed military sappers safely detonating one of the bombs near the checkpoint in the northern Cairo neighbourhood of Shubra al-Kheima.

An Egyptian private television station quoted an interior ministry official as saying one of the bombs left behind was planted next to a soldier's corpse.

Most of the attacks since Morsi's ousting have taken place in the Sinai, but in recent months militants have expanded their reach to the Nile Delta and the capital.

Polarised

The government has blamed much of the attacks on Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, which renounced violence decades ago and has denied any involvement.

"An armed group belonging to the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood attacked a military police checkpoint, leading to the martyrdom of five conscripts," the military said of Saturday's attack.

The most prominent attacks, including a car bombing at a police headquarters in Cairo and the downing of a military helicopter in Sinai, have been claimed by Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (Partisans of Jerusalem), a Sinai-based jihadist movement.

The group has said the attacks are in retaliation for a brutal government crackdown on Morsi's Islamist supporters, which Amnesty International says has claimed some 1 400 lives.

Morsi was elected in Egypt's first-ever democratic presidential election, following the 2011 uprising that toppled long-ruling dictator Hosni Mubarak.

But his year in power bitterly polarised Egyptians, and last summer the military ousted him amid mass protests demanding his overthrow.

Since his overthrow and detention, his supporters have staged weekly rallies that often set off clashes with security forces and Morsi opponents.

The army has meanwhile poured troops and armour into the lawless Sinai to combat the growing militancy, often targeting suspected gunmen with air strikes.

Analysts say the army campaign has led the jihadist militants in Sinai, some inspired by al-Qaeda, to adapt by staging less frequent but more widespread attacks across the country.

With the Brotherhood decapitated by the crackdown, some of its members might also have decided to form militant cells to target policemen.

Militants have conducted a series of assassinations of police officers in the Nile Delta, including of a policeman who guarded one of the judges overseeing Morsi's trial.

Morsi, who was jailed following his overthrow, faces three separate trials for alleged involvement in the killing of opposition protesters and collusion with militants to carry out attacks in the country.

Read more on:    al-qaeda  |  muslim brotherhood  |  mohammed morsi  |  egypt  |  north africa
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