A suicide car bomber blew himself up in the parking lot of a top security compound in central Cairo on Friday, killing at least four people in one of the most high-profile attacks on the state in months, security sources said.
According to Reuters, the early morning explosion damaged the Cairo Security Directorate, which includes police and state security, and sent smoke rising over the capital, raising concerns that an insurgency was gathering pace.
Tensions were rising in other parts of Cairo, which has seen numerous protests and street violence since the army deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July after mass protests against his rule.
Fierce clashes broke out between Morsi supporters and security forces on the road leading to the Pyramids of Giza, where about 2,000 Islamists gathered. Some burned tires and hurled petrol bombs at police, who responded by firing tear gas.
Clashes were also reported on Friday in Suez City, Ismailia and Alexandria.
Hours after the first bomb attack, the capital and its environs witnessed two smaller blasts.
A crude explosive device killed one policeman and wounded nine others in another Cairo neighborhood, the Interior Ministry said in a statement. Security sources said a person driving past security vehicles had hurled a hand grenade in their direction.
In Giza, a large district on the outskirts of Cairo, a third explosion went off near a police station. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
Later in the day reports emerged of a fourth bombing in Cairo in which one person was killed, according to AFP which cited police officials in its report.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which came a day before the third anniversary of the uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak and raised hopes of a stable democracy in the Arab world's biggest nation.
Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim, who is in charge of police, called the bombings a "vile terrorist act" aimed at spreading panic ahead of Saturday's pro-military rallies. "But people will only increasingly insist ... and join the masses in millions" on Saturday, he told reporters at the site of the bombed police headquarters, according to AP.
The office of interim President Adly Mansour vowed in a statement after the attack that it is determined to "uproot terrorism" and said it could be forced to take "exceptional measures." It did not elaborate.
On its Twitter account, the Muslim Brotherhood posted a message in English condemning the "cowardly bombings in Cairo, express condolence to families of those killed and demand swift investigation." There was no similar one in Arabic.
After ousting Morsi, army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi unveiled a political road map he said would bring elections and calm to Egypt.
Security forces have killed hundreds of Brotherhood members and jailed thousands more, including top leaders.
Authorities have branded the Brotherhood a terrorist group, accusing it of involvement in the militant violence. The Brotherhood has denied any link. But the branding has helped fuel a wave of popular sentiment against the group and in favor of the military.
Islamists are trying to use Saturday's anniversary to build momentum in their campaign of protests to "break the coup."
Subscribe to our RSS feed to stay in touch and receive all of TT updates right in your feed reader