CAIRO (AP) — Three homemade bombs went off near Egypt’s presidential palace in Cairo on Monday, killing two senior police officers and injuring 10 other people on the anniversary of the mass protests that led to the ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.
The devices were planted less than 20 meters (yards) away from the walls of the Ittihadiya palace in the upscale Heliopolis district in eastern Cairo, in what appeared to be a serious security breach in the heavily policed area.
It was not immediately clear whether President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who as army chief ousted Morsi, was inside the palace when the explosions occurred.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blasts, which bore the hallmarks of Islamic militant groups sympathetic to Morsi. A militant group that has claimed responsibility for previous attacks on police said in a statement dated June 27 that it had planned to plant bombs around Ittihadiya but aborted the attack earlier this month.
Ajnad Misr, or Soldiers of Egypt, said it planted explosives near the palace on June 18 to hit its security contingent. But it said it aborted the attack because civilians came close to the explosives. It said its operatives were unable to retrieve the devices but have been diverting civilians away from them. The statement’s claims could not be verified and it was not clear if the devices were connected to Monday’s blasts.
Security officials said the first bomb to go off Monday slightly wounded three street cleaners, while a second and third exploded while bomb squad teams were trying to defuse them, killing a police colonel and a lieutenant-colonel, and wounding seven other people. Another device in the area was discovered and safely defused, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.
The Interior Ministry confirmed the deaths of the two officers without providing further details.
An Associated Press video showed the immediate aftermath of the second explosion, with plainclothes police carrying away the dead colonel and an injured policeman on stretchers as a cloud of white smoke rises from the site.
Security forces also sealed off roads leading to the palace, with police dogs used in the search for more explosive devices and special police forces arriving at the scene.
The blasts fell on the anniversary of the start of several days of massive protests in which millions of Egyptians demanded that Morsi step down. The protests culminated with Morsi’s removal on July 3 and subsequent imprisonment. El-Sissi retired from the military and was elected president in May for a four-year term.
On the other side of town, security forces sealed off Tahrir Square — epicenter of the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak — to search for explosives. The square will be the venue for celebrations due later on Monday to mark the anniversary of the anti-Morsi protests.