Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Four Egyptian soldiers were injured in an attack on the El-Sharqiya Governorate’s Military Intelligence Headquarters in the city of Anshas, north of Cairo, on Sunday, in what represents the second bomb attack targeting Egyptian security forces in the Nile Delta in less than a week. The worsening security situation comes as Egyptian security forces prepare for more terrorist attacks over the holiday period.
In exclusive comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Egyptian Cabinet spokesman Hani Salah affirmed that Egyptian authorities have information that “terrorist groups” are planning attacks, adding that they are ready to “confront” any of these attacks.
“We expect terrorist groups will attempt to carry out violent acts in the coming period and we are ready, God willing, to take relevant measures to deal with this,” Salah said.
“We know about most of the plans of these terrorist groups,” he added.
Local media reported that the Anshas blast was the result of a car bomb, similar to the one that exploded outside a security headquarters in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura earlier this week killing at least 16. Cairo blamed the earlier attack on the Muslim Brotherhood, designating the organization a “terrorist group” on Wednesday. The Brotherhood, for its part, denied responsibility for the attack.
“The government reiterates that there will be no return to the past under any circumstances and Egypt, the state and the people, will never succumb to the terrorism of the Muslim Brotherhood whose crimes have gone far beyond all moral, religious and human limits,” Egyptian Deputy Prime Minister Hossam Issa announced on Wednesday.
The Interior Ministry subsequently issued a statement announcing that anyone found guilty of membership of the now outlawed group or participates in Muslim Brotherhood marches or distributes Brotherhood literature, would face imprisonment for a period of five years.
Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis, an Al-Qaeda inspired group based in the Sinai Peninsula, claimed responsibility for the Mansoura bombing. However an Egyptian security official, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on condition of anonymity, affirmed that the Muslim Brotherhood had formed an alliance with the Al-Qaeda-linked Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis and another group, the Al-Furqan Brigade.
Muslim Brotherhood supporters took to the streets across the country on Friday and Saturday in defiance of the government’s designation of the movement as a terrorist organization. Brotherhood supporters clashed with police at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, leaving at least three killed.
Despite the violence, the military-backed interim government has pledged that the unrest will not derail preparations for the constitutional referendum scheduled for January 14–15.
Commenting on the forthcoming referendum, former Grand Mufti of Egypt Ali Gomaa told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the Egyptian people will participate in the referendum and will vote ‘yes’ to the constitution.”
Dr. Gomaa said that he opposed calls discouraging Egyptians from voting in the referendum.
Approximately 350 Egyptian police officers and soldiers have been killed in bombings and shootings since Islamist President Mohamed Mursi was deposed in July, most of them in the Sinai Peninsula where Islamist extremists have exploited a security vacuum following the January 25 revolution.