CAIRO (AP) — A “large” explosive targeted the convoy of Egypt’s interior minister Thursday in Cairo’s eastern Nasr City district, the first attack on a senior government official since a coup toppled the country’s Islamist president two months ago.
The minister, Mohammed Ibrahim, survived the attack, which damaged the convoy’s cars and injured at least eight people, including two policemen and a child seriously. There were no fatalities.
Clearly shaken but unscathed, Ibrahim spoke on state television two hours after the late morning attack. He said his car, a black SUV, was directly hit by a “large-size explosive device” that badly damaged it along with four other vehicles in the convoy.
“It was a heinous (assassination) attempt,” he later told reporters at the Interior Ministry in central Cairo. The explosive device, he added, likely was detonated by remote control. His comments were carried live on state television.
The blast damaged several cars parked on the street and shattered the windows of several nearby apartment buildings. The aftermath of the blast suggested a powerful explosion, with three badly damaged SUVs, including the minister’s, and a small raging fire. The blast site was littered with debris, including tree branches severed by the explosion.
Police were searching for suspects in the area but no arrests had been made, security officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attack.
Nasr City is a stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group from which ousted President Mohammed Morsi hails. It was also the site of a sit-in protest by his supporters that was stormed by police on Aug. 14, killing hundreds.
Morsi was toppled in a July 3 military coup that followed days of protests by millions of Egyptians who demanded his departure after a year in office. During the six-weeklong sit-in protest in Nasr City, many of Morsi’s supporters threatened to wage a campaign of violence against the military-backed government if he was not reinstated.
Morsi has been held in an undisclosed location since his ouster. Hundreds of Brotherhood leaders and supporters have been detained since the coup, including the group’s supreme leader, Mohammed Badie, and his powerful deputy, Khairat el-Shater.
Thursday’s attack harked back to the insurgency waged by Islamists in the 1980s and 1990s against the rule of now-ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Then, senior government officials, including the speaker of parliament and the interior minister, were targeted. Mubarak himself survived an assassination attempt in 1994, when militants attacked his convoy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The Egyptian government already is fighting a fledgling Islamist insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula, a strategic region bordering Israel and Gaza.