Monday, June 29, 2015

Egypt's State Prosecutor Injured in Bomb Blast Near Cairo
Los Angeles Times

A powerful bomb detonated Monday as a convoy carrying Egypt’s prosecutor general was passing by, witnesses said, and Egyptian media reports said he had been rushed to the hospital and undergone surgery for his injuries.

Militant groups have waged a months-long campaign against the government of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi, who nearly two years ago led the popularly supported coup that forced out Islamist Mohamed Morsi, the country’s first freely elected president.  

A previously unknown group calling itself the Giza Popular Resistance made a claim of responsibility on its Facebook page, but Egyptian authorities had no immediate comment on its veracity. Islamic militant groups, some of them shadowy, have previously targeted judges and others associated with the judicial establishment.

Egypt’s courts are described by human rights groups as highly politicized and commonly used as a tool of enforcement against anti-government dissenters of all stripes.

The blast, in the upscale neighborhood of Heliopolis, left half a dozen vehicles twisted and charred, and scattered burning debris over a wide area. Egyptian news reports said no body of a suicide attacker had been found, leading authorities to surmise that the explosion was set off by remote control.

In the initial hours following the attack, Egyptian authorities provided no official statement detailing the circumstances of the explosion or the injuries to the prosecutor, Hisham Barakat, and others in his entourage.

Egyptian media said at least five others were wounded in the blast, which took place not far from the prosecutor’s home. The official MENA news agency described Barakat’s injuries as “light,” but other reports said his condition was considerably more serious.

As prosecutor general, Barakat has presided over a concerted judicial campaign against not only members of Morsi’s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood but secular opponents of the government as well, though their numbers are smaller. Morsi himself has been sentenced to death in one of the several criminal cases against him, and hundreds of other Brotherhood figures have been condemned in mass tribunals.

Although the capital verdict against him is being appealed, Morsi has made recent court appearances in the red prison jumpsuit designated for those who are condemned to die. If the sentence were carried out, it would be the first execution of a former sitting Egyptian president.

Egypt’s security forces have been battling an insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula that has left hundreds of police and soldiers dead in the 23 months since Morsi’s ouster. Sinai militants mainly strike at army and police targets in the rugged peninsula, but have mounted a few major bombings in heartland cities including Cairo.

A series of smaller-scale attacks this year have hit primarily economic targets, including famed tourist sites such as the Pyramids and Luxor’s Karnak Temple. The tourist sector in recent months had shown signs of recovery -- one of the few bright spots in Egypt’s economy, which has struggled in the wake of the 2011 popular uprising that toppled longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak.

Staff writer King reported from Cairo and special correspondent Hassan from Berlin. 

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