At least 13 people were killed and more than 100 wounded Tuesday morning when a massive explosion tore through a security compound in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura.
Security officials said the explosion had been caused by a car bomb, and at least two police officers were among those killed. Attacks against army and police officers have risen sharply since the army ousted Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood government.
It was the first major attack in the Nile Delta, an area previously untouched by the deadly violence that has become a near-weekly occurrence in the Sinai Peninsula and Suez Canal areas. The bombing in Mansoura, which is approximately 70 miles north of Cairo, brought the violence close to home for many of Egypt's top security and political officials.
"This is an act of terrorism that aims at frightening the people and obstructing the road map. The black hands behind this act want to destroy the future of our country," said Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi. "The state will do its utmost to pursue the criminals who executed, planned and supported that attack."
The 1:10 a.m. blast caused the collapse of an entire section and side wall of the five-floor building, incinerated dozens of cars outside, and damaged several nearby buildings. A video uploaded just after the bombing shows a scene of absolute chaos, as thousands thronged to the area trying to find loved ones.
Witnesses told Nile News TV that cars inside and outside the security compound were burned out, and that local television news interrupted its programming to urge people to go to hospitals and donate blood.
The explosion ripped through the building's side façade and damaged a number of police vehicles and parts of adjacent buildings including the state's council, a theater, and a bank.
Photographs posted to Twitter this morning showed the extent of the damage.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing, which came a day after an al-Qaeda-inspired group called on police and army personnel to desert or face death at the hands of its fighters.
Egyptian news agencies quoted cabinet spokesman Sherif Shawki as saying that the Brotherhood showed its "ugly face as a terrorist organization, shedding blood and messing with Egypt's security." Shawki also said that Egypt's government had designated the Brotherhood as a terrorist group, though Egyptian Prime Minister Beblawi made no mention of the Brotherhood during his statement to the press.
On their website and Facebook page, Brotherhood officials condemned the attack.
"The Muslim Brotherhood considers this act as a direct attack on the unity of the Egyptian people and demands an enquiry forthwith so that the perpetrators of this crime may be brought to justice," read the official statement by the Brotherhood. They also criticized Beblawi for "exploiting" the attack for his own political purposes.
"It is no surprise that Beblawi, the military junta's puppet Prime Minister, has decided to exploit the blood of innocent Egyptians through inflammatory statements designed to create further violence, chaos and instability," read the Brotherhood statement.
In Mansoura, a traditional area of support for the army that has long opposed the Brotherhood, anger quickly turned to the Islamist group.
"The people want the execution of the Muslim Brotherhood," shouted residents, who were shown on local TV marching through the rubble. Some accused the Brotherhood of staging the attacks just weeks ahead of the national referendum on the new Egyptian constitution to scare people from coming to the polls to vote. The Brotherhood has already called on its supporters to boycott the vote.
Egypt has remained polarized since the military ousted Morsi, with regular street clashes between his supporters and opponents as well as tit-for-tat killings in communities across Egypt.
In the wake of the bombing in Mansour, accusations were traded over Twitter and Facebook over who was to be held responsible. One Twitter account with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood accused Egyptian businessman Naguib Sawiris of being behind the bombing, though they offered no evidence.
Sheera Frenkel is a cybersecurity correspondent for BuzzFeed News based in San Francisco. She has reported from Israel, Egypt, Jordan and across the Middle East. Her secure PGP fingerprint is 4A53 A35C 06BE 5339 E9B6 D54E 73A6 0F6A E252 A50F
Contact Sheera Frenkel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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