A suicide bomber and unknown gunmen aiming to destabilize Egypt killed nine security men and hit the country’s main satellite communications center Monday in a string of attacks, the interior minister said.
The bombing that struck a security headquarters in the southern Sinai Peninsula killed three police officers and injured nearly 50 other people. The body parts of the suicide bomber are still being analyzed to determine who was behind the attack, Mohammed Ibrahim said.
Earlier, masked gunmen pulled alongside a pickup truck full of troops on patrol near the Suez Canal and opened fire, killing six soldiers, security officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.
“This is an attempt to prove they are still around and are not broken,” he said, without specifying which groups are behind the attacks. “They also aim to confuse, to distract” security forces, he added.
Ibrahim said the attack in southern Sinai is believed to be the act of Islamist militant groups, who operate in the northern part of the peninsula and have been squeezed out of there because of ongoing military and security operations against them.
But Ibrahim said an attack in the capital Monday on the country’s main satellite communications station in a southern suburb is suspected to be an act of retaliation for the crackdown on supporters of the former president during protests a day earlier that left 50 dead. Most of those killed were supporters of Mohammed Morsi.
He said gunmen believed to be hiding in nearby buildings fired a projectile into a compound housing the satellites. Earlier security officials said they believed rocket-propelled grenades were used in the attack, but Ibrahim said it was unlikely.
The Cairo attack was the first such strike on civilian infrastructure.
Since Morsi’s ouster by the military July 3, Egypt has been roiled by unrest, with near daily protests and a surge in attacks on security forces and military troops, particularly in the Sinai.
Authorities are blaming pro-Morsi supporters of seeking to create chaos to discredit the new government. The government declared it is waging a war against terrorism.
Since the popularly backed coup, authorities have detained at least 2,000 Brotherhood members, including most of the group’s leaders. It says the detainees would face trial on charges that range from murder and inciting violence to abuse of power and conspiring with foreign powers.
Pro-Morsi supporters deny they resort to violence. But militant groups in Sinai have openly called for attacks against security.
Near-daily attacks against security forces and soldiers in the volatile northern Sinai Peninsula have increasingly resembled a full-fledged insurgency, especially in the three months since the ouster of Morsi.
But the region of southern Sinai, which includes the popular diving resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, has been mostly quiet since a series of deadly attacks in 2005 and 2006.
The four-story security headquarters building attacked Monday sustained serious damage, and a top police commander was wounded.
The violence is certain to set back efforts by the interim, military-backed government to revive the economy, especially the vital tourism sector, and bring order to the streets of Cairo, where crime and lawlessness have been rife.
In a sign of increased nervousness, security measures were heightened at Cairo International Airport on Monday, as authorities used explosive-detectors and dogs to inspect vehicles.