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Twenty die as blasts, protests rock Cairo

The Muslim Brotherhood condemned what appeared to be a coordinated attack across the city involving several bombs.

 

CAIRO — Twenty people died and more than 100 were wounded as blasts and protests rocked Cairo on Friday, the eve of the third anniversary of the uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Shortly after sunrise, a truck bomb exploded as it tried to get into police headquarters in the Egyptian capital, killing five and wounding 76, government officials said. 

"Traitors and dogs," onlookers yelled in an apparent reference to the assailants, according to Reuters.  

Several police officers sat on the sidewalk, weeping as ambulances rushed in, Reuters reported. A crowd of distraught-looking residents looked on as A body lay on the ground, covered by a sheet.

State television quoted witnesses as saying that gunmen opened fire on buildings after the blast. The police headquarters building and nearby 19th-century Museum of Islamic Art, which was recently renovated in a multimillion-dollar project, were badly damaged.

With smoke still rising over the city center from the blast, a second explosion next to a subway station again shook Cairo. A Ministry of Health spokesperson said one person died and another four were wounded in the second explosion. 

Khaled Elfiqi / EPA

Damage outside the Islamic museum after a car bomb explosion outside the police headquarters in Cairo.

Egyptian TV later reported a third explosion from an improvised explosive device next to a police station near the Pyramids district of Giza on the outskirts of Cairo. 

According to the health ministry, 14 people later died in fierce clashes that later broke out between thousands of supporters of deposed Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and Egyptian security forces, who fired teargas at the Molotov cocktail-hurling demonstrators. 

The militant group Ansar Beit al Maqdis released a statement claiming responsibility for the near-simultaneous bombings, which came a day before the third anniversary of the uprising that toppled Mubarak.

They were the first attacks in central Cairo since the surge of militant attacks that followed Morsi's ouster in July. 

Shortly before the referendum on the new constitution 10 days ago, an explosion struck a courthouse in the densely populated neighborhood of Imbaba in northern Giza although no casualties were reported.

Calling them “heinous terrorist attacks” the U.S. Embassy in Cairo condemned those responsible for the explosions and said they would fully support the Egyptian government's efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice.  

“The Embassy extends its deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims, and we hope for the quick and full recovery of the injured,” the statement added. 

Since Morsi's removal, there has been a fierce crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood organization, which has been banned by the interim government.

Henry Austin reported from London. Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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