Egyptian security chief survives assassination attempt
Two policemen killed in bombing of officer's convoy in Alexandria
The Egyptian interior ministry's top security official in Alexandria survived an assassination attempt on Saturday that left two policemen dead and five others injured in a roadside bombing.
Major General Mustafa Al Nimr was unharmed when the blast struck his convoy near his headquarters in the city centre at about 11.30am.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which came two days before Egyptians begin voting in a presidential election.
An interior ministry source said Maj Gen Al Nimr was on his way to inspect security arrangements in Alexandria, Egypt’s second largest city with more than 4.5 million people and 750 polling stations.
“The major general was readying security for the elections,” the source said. “Preliminary information indicates that the device was placed under a vehicle on the roadside and weighed around 8 kilograms.”
The UAE Foreign Ministry condemned the attack as a "cowardly and criminal act of terrorism aimed at undermining the security and stability of Egypt".
The explosion came just two days after Interior Minister Magdi Abel Ghaffar said police would guard voters against any possible attacks during the three days of voting.
“Intense security efforts will be under way to abort any violence or terror attempted by any outlawed element during the elections,” Mr Abel Ghaffar told a pre-election security review attended by top ministry officers on Thursday.
President Abdel Fattah El Sisi is considered a certainty to win re-election but the government is trying to encourage a high voter turnout as an endorsement of his policies, including a tough stance against militants who have carried out a series of deadly attacks during his first term. Security forces are in the middle of a wide-reaching security operation, particularly against an ISIL affiliate based in northern Sinai.
Former assistant minister of interior Magdy Basiouny told The National he believed the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood was responsible for the bombing.
“The Brotherhood will be found to have perpetuated this," Mr Basiouny said. “The use of these kinds of explosive devices are common for terrorist elements unable to carry out any armed attack because the security forces have reduced their armed capacity in the raids on their hideouts and other operations in recent years.”
In January, Mr El Sisi handed Maj Gen Al Nimr a first class commendation for his outstanding service to the force, the only officer to be recognised with this high award at the Police Day ceremony.
The area where his convoy was hit, on El-Moaskar El-Romany Street, is near high end restaurants such as Shakespeare's Cafe, as well as a shopping mall and a hotel owned by the armed forces.
“Much of the top brass of the armed forces for the northern military area lives around here,” said Yusef Abdul Aziz, a taxi driver who witnessed the explosion as he was driving down the street. “My car wasn’t damaged but others near me were, and the windows were blown off buildings on both sides of the road.”
“The area turned into a mass of fire and heavy smoke,” said Ahmed Abdul Aziz, 35, a resident of the El-Moaskar El-Romany neighbourhood.
“Most of the residents of the area are supporters of President El Sisi but constant threats from terrorist groups that want to dissuade us will not stop us from performing our national duties and voting.”
Egypt is still under a state of emergency declared last April, when suicide bombings struck two Coptic Christian churches on Palm Sunday in an attack claimed by the local affiliate of ISIL.
Jacob Wirtschafter reported from Cairo
Updated: March 24, 2018 11:06 PM