CAIRO — A powerful bomb blasted through a convoy of cars carrying the interior minister along a residential street Thursday, raising fears of a widely predicted turn toward terrorist violence by supporters of Egypt’s ousted president, Mohammed Morsi.
The minister escaped and so did his would-be assassins. But the explosion killed at least one police officer, injured 10 others and wounded at least 11 civilians, according to an official statement from the Interior Ministry. Speaking independently, Gen. Osama al-Soghayar, security chief for Cairo, put the number of civilians injured far higher, at more than 60.
A police officer, a 7-year-old child and others lost legs or other limbs in the explosion, ministry officials, medics and witnesses said. Neighbors said they found pieces of flesh scattered in the street as far as 150 feet from the explosion.
“We started collecting the carnage,” said Mahmoud Saed, 22, a salesman. “I saw a leg, some toes, then another leg and some burned bits and pieces.”
No one claimed responsibility. The Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group leading protests against the military’s removal of Morsi, its ally, denounced the attack. But Egyptians across the political spectrum reacted with grim anticipation, convinced that the assassination attempt marked a return to the kind of violent Islamist insurgency that erupted here in the 1990s.
“What happened today is not the end but the beginning,” Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim told reporters. It is “a new wave of terrorism,” he said.
Since the July 3 ouster of Morsi, the nation’s first democratically elected president, Islamists have warned that the theft of their electoral victories would lead some in their ranks to give up on the democratic process and resort to violence, just as some did in the 1990s. And weeks ago, even before there was much evidence of such a turn, the new government installed by Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi began portraying its crackdown on the Brotherhood and other Morsi supporters as a mortal struggle against “terrorism.”
Since security forces killed more than 600 protesters while breaking up two pro-Morsi sit-ins three weeks ago, Interior Ministry officials have blamed his supporters for killing 117 members of their own police force. Of these, at least 43 were killed in street fighting with protesters at the sit-ins, where at least a few had guns. Scores of police officers have been killed by militants in the relatively lawless Sinai, including two dozen killed in one strike last month. And perhaps as many two dozen others were killed in drive-by shootings or scattered attacks elsewhere. Several were executed in an attack at a police station in Giza, across the Nile from Cairo.