CAIRO, Sept 21 (Reuters) – A bomb blast beside Egypt’s foreign ministry killed three policemen on Sunday, including a key witness in a trial of deposed Islamist President Mohamed Mursi.
The blast, the worst attack in Cairo for months, killed two police lieutenant colonels and a recruit, according to the foreign ministry.
Ajnad Misr, the Islamist militant group that carried out the last significant attack in Cairo, claimed responsibility for the blast in a statement posted on their official Twitter account.
“This new operation shows we can penetrate and reach the vicinity of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs…to destroy the officers of the criminal security agencies and make them taste some of what they have made Muslims taste,” it said.
“Operations of retribution and revenge by this blessed group will not stop,” said the group, whose name means Soldiers of Egypt.
The blast was the latest attack in a simmering insurgency against the U.S.-backed government, underlining security challenges facing President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Sisi, who has just completed 100 days in office, has pushed through some badly-needed economic reforms such as a rise in fuel prices. But tackling Islamist militants, an issue that has dogged one Egyptian leader after another, is far from easy.
Egypt has faced rising Islamist militant violence since Sisi ousted Mursi last year after mass protests against his rule and cracked down on Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood, which the government has declared a terrorist group.
One of the police officers killed in Sunday’s blast, Lieutenant Colonel Mohamed Mahmoud Abu Sareeaa, was a critical witness in a trial of Mursi related to a 2011 mass prison break, court and security sources told Reuters.
It was not clear if he was targeted or just happened to be at the site of the explosion.
The challenge of containing militancy has become more complex since Islamic State militants expanded their control over northern Iraq and eastern Syria in June and declared a caliphate, inspiring other militant groups including some based along Egypt’s border with chaotic Libya.
Islamic State established ties with Sinai-based Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis and has been coaching Egypt’s most lethal militant organisation, security officials and an Ansar commander told Reuters.