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5 Sep, 2013 14:58

Egypt’s interior minister survives assassination attempt

Egypt’s interior minister survives assassination attempt

The Egyptian interior minister, Mohamed Ibrahim, has avoided injuries in an assassination attempt as his motorcade was blown up by a remote-controlled bomb while driving through the infamous Nasr City district in the capital, Cairo.

22 people were wounded – two policemen and a child seriously – are reported wounded in the attack, with security forces also saying that the diver of the car, in which the bomb was planted, has died.  

The shocked, but unhurt minister appeared live on national television just two hours after the assassination attempt, which happened late on Thursday morning.

Ibrahim said his black SUV was directly hit by “a large-size explosive device” and received serious damage along with four other cars in the convoy.  

“Many of my guards were injured,”
he said, adding that one police officer was in a critical condition and another policeman and a small child had lost their legs in the explosion.

According to the minister, investigations showed the blast had most likely been detonated by remote control. 

A general view shows policemen investigating next to burnt cars at the site of a bomb attack and assassination attempt near the house of Egypt's Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim in the Nasr City district of Cairo September 5, 2013. (Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

It’s the first attack on a senior government official since the army toppled the country's Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, two months ago.

“What happened today isn’t the end, but the beginning,”
the minister said when asked by the reporters if an attempt on his life marked the start of “a new wave of terrorism” for Egypt.

"Even if I am martyred, another interior minister will come and continue the war on the evil terror until we secure the country," he added.

Ibrahim was among the officials, who oversaw a violent crackdown on protestors demanding Morsi’s reinstatement, which saw hundreds of people killed.

The attempt on his life was carried out in Nasr City, known as a stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group that former president Morsi represented. The district in the east of Cairo was the scene of Egypt's most famous assassination when president, Anwar Sadat, was murdered by Islamists back in 1981.

In his interview last week, Ibrahim stressed that he was aware of plans to assassinate him, in which “foreign elements” were involved, and therefore he was supplied with an armored car, identical to the one used by Egypt’s military leader, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Egypt's newly appointed Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim speaks to media at his office in Cairo January 5, 2013. (Reuters/El-Youm el-Sabaa Newspaper)

The Egyptian security forces said that the bomb was planted inside a parked car and detonated as Ibrahim's motorcade was passing by.

The driver of the vehicle used in the assassination attempt has “met his end” in the explosion, head of Cairo security, Osama al-Saghir, told Al-Ahram newspaper, adding that “the investigators found the remains of a body that are being examined.”

“I was standing by a kiosk when police officers came and told me to make way as the minister's convoy passed. I moved a few inches, then I heard a huge explosion," local resident Mohamed Raafat told Reuters. “I looked behind and I saw remains of dead bodies and was told that a car that was parking had exploded near the convoy.”

There were also reports on Egyptian State TV claiming that the explosive device was thrown at the convoy from the roof of one of the buildings.   

Riot police guard the site of an explosion near the house of Egypt's interior minister at Cairo's Nasr City district September 5, 2013. (Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

Police were searching the area for suspects, but no arrests have been made, security officials told AP on condition of anonymity.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attack, with senior Muslim Brotherhood leader, Amr Darrag, condemning the assassination attempt on Ibrahim.  

“The bombing allegedly targeting the minister of interior today is regrettable and the alliance strongly condemns it," Darrag said in a statement on behalf of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood-led ‘Anti-Coup Alliance’.

Medics and police carry recovered body parts from the site of a bomb attack and assassination attempt near the house of Egypt's Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim in the Nasr City district of Cairo September 5, 2013. (Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

Gamaa Islamiya, the radical Islamist group behind the 1980s and 1990s insurgency in Egypt, also said it had nothing to do with the explosion, denouncing the move.

But, previously, some of Morsi's hard-line backers have publicly threatened to wage a campaign of roadside bombings, suicide bombings and assassinations against high-ranked officials of the military-led government until Egypt’s first democratically elected president is back in power.

Since Morsi’s ouster on July 3, the attacks on security forces have stepped up in North Sinai where Islamist militants have established themselves in the last couple of years.