A suicide attack struck at the heart of central Cairo last Monday, killing three policemen and wounding two other policemen and a woman. While terrorist activity in the capital has largely been quelled by a years-long security crackdown under President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, Cairo has recently seen a spate of attacks. Monday’s bombing was the second in two weeks: last Friday, a bomb detonated in front of a Cairo mosque. The suspect for both attacks has been identified by Egyptian authorities as 37-year-old al-Hassan Abdullah.
A video circulating on local media shows the moment the explosion occurred. In the video, Abdullah is seen on a bicycle attempting to elude the pursuant police forces, who aimed to arrest him in connection to the bombing of the mosque. His efforts to escape were quickly thwarted as the policemen encircled him. In this moment, as the police were ready to make their arrest, Abdullah detonated the suicide bomb. The video screen flashed violent sparks of red, white, and purple, and then went dark.
In the aftermath of the attack, security forces scoured Abdullah’s apartment. According to Al Jazeera, they found a time bomb and were forced to temporarily evacuate the building until the bomb was defused. Back at the scene of the blast, police and soldiers cordoned off the narrow streets in the Darb al-Ahmar neighbourhood. According to ABC News, a body, presumably of the attacker, remained in the alleyway, cloaked by a white sheet smeared with blood. Around the bloodied body, the soldiers, and police, shattered windows and curtains blasted off nearby balconies framed a grim and violent scene.
No Islamic militant group has claimed responsibility for the bombing, rendering the attacker’s affiliation unknown. Police have identified him as a foreign national, but have revealed no further information. According to ABC News, the ministry blamed members of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood for last Friday’s mosque attack, which it said targeted a security checkpoint and wounded three people.
Recent attacks in Egypt are just one part of an enduring battle with Islamic militants. The Islamist insurgency bolstered its power after the 2013 overthrow of an elected but divisive Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi. Since then, security forces and the country’s Coptic Christian minority have suffered the brunt of extremist fury and violence. According to Al Jazeera, a policeman was killed last month as he attempted to defuse an explosive device near a church in a residential Cairo district.
In the restless North of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, militant groups have sunk their claws in deep, carrying out many attacks in recent years. Just last year, as part of an effort to suppress armed groups in northern Sinai, Egypt launched a wide-scale security operation. According to ABC News, security forces involved in this operation recently killed 16 militants and seized explosives and weapons in two raids. Security officials said that the raids involved clashes with Islamic militants in the desert outside the city of el-Arish, but did not specify when the battle took place.
The recent victory in Sinai is but a small one, and Egypt’s campaign against northern insurgents is unlikely to soon come to a close. Egypt has adopted a blunt force approach, which, according to The Hill, includes “indiscriminate bombing as well as the razing of entire villages and some extrajudicial killings.” Thus far, tactics of extensive and undiscriminating violence have proven fruitless for the Sisi regime, which has been unable to quell the terrorist insurgency. Instead, afflicted civilians have grown increasingly agitated with the regime. Some disaffected youth have been radicalized by Islamist militants in the region. With a continuous supply of young recruits, militant groups have the resources they need to continue waging war against Egypt both in northern Sinai and in Cairo.