Update: Islamic State claims responsibility for Italian Consulate attack
Courtesy: سلمى الورداني
 

The Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility for the bombing of the Italian Consulate in downtown Cairo on Saturday morning, which claimed one life and injured at least 10 people.

“The soldiers of the Islamic State successfully detonated a car bomb parked near the Italian Consulate in downtown Cairo,” the IS said in a statement that was circulated on Twitter late on Saturday. The statement claimed that the car was packed with 450 kg of explosives.

Islamic State statement claiming Italian Consulate bombing

Islamic State statement claiming Italian Consulate bombing

The IS called on Muslims to steer clear of security facilities, which “are legitimate targets for the Jihadists.”

The Province of Sinai militant group, previously known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdes, pledged allegiance to the IS in November, 2014. Province of Sinai has perpetuated several deadly bombings, largely targeting military installations in the embattled peninsula — most recently, last Wednesday’s fatal attacks in Sheikh Zuwayed and Rafah that claimed more than 100 lives. However, it was the larger Islamic State organization that issued Saturday’s statement, not the Sinai-based group.

The bomb detonated in front of the consulate, located on Galaa Street in downtown Cairo’s Esa’af district, around 6:30 am Saturday morning, according to a Health Ministry statement.

Rabie Shaaban Abdel-Al, a 26-year-old street vendor from Fayoum, passed away in the bombing, the privately owned newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm reported. Lawyer Nahla Abdel Mohsen, her four children and two passersby whose names have not been released were among the injured. This morning, the Health Ministry said all the injured were taken to Helal Hospital and the Railway Hospital for treatment.

Mahmoud al-Shenawy, head of Helal Hospital, stated that Abdel-Al arrived at the hospital in critical condition and died as soon as he was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. 

Among the injured, eight were released from the hospital by the early afternoon, Al-Masry Al-Youm reported, with the exception of two patients who may have concussions, who will reportedly be kept in the ICU for another 24 hours.

The prosecution is currently interrogating six security personnel who were working at the bomb site, according to Al-Masry Al-Youm. Officials also demanded that the consulate submit all footage from their surveillance cameras for the prosecution to review.

A security source said that the explosive device was placed underneath a parked car near the building and was detonated from afar, Al-Masry Al-Youm reported. Security forces have been searching the area for other explosives. Initial investigations showed that the car that carried the explosives had Suez license plates. Security officials are currently attempting to identify the owner.

The attack caused substantial damage to the consulate and at least 50 neighboring buildings. However, initial reports state that most residents in the affected buildings were not at home at the time of the explosion. 

The Italian Embassy stated on its official Twitter this morning that it would temporarily suspend the consulate’s services until further notice.

David Degner, a photojournalist and editor for Mada Masr’s Panorama site, reported on Twitter that he was briefly detained after he arrived at the scene to take pictures, but has now been released. Italian journalist Alejandro Accorsi also reported that journalists at the scene were being held by the police.

Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Paolo Gentiloni wrote on his personal Twitter account early Saturday that no Italians were among the victims of the incident, and expressed his solidarity with the injured.

“Italy won’t be intimidated,” he warned.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi called President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Saturday afternoon, saying that Italy stood with Egypt in such critical moments, and declaring that Italy is determined to fight, defeat and eliminate terrorism.

Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Araby also issued a statement condemning the attack, and declaring the Arab League’s total support of Egypt’s war on terrorism.  

The blast resounded in several neighborhoods extending far beyond the bombing site. Eyewitnesses in the area reported seeing blood in the streets. Pictures of the destroyed consulate began circulating on social media shortly thereafter. Galaa Street was initially closed after the bombing and traffic was redirected to Ramses Street, but as of Saturday afternoon, the traffic authorities reopened Galaa Street.

This is the first time a bombing has targeted a diplomatic site since such attacks began escalating in the aftermath of former President Mohamed Morsi’s ouster in July, 2013. Last week, another deadly car bombing in Heliopolis killed former Prosecutor General Hesham Barakat.  

Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the bombing’s location as Garden City. It has been amended to reflect that the bombing occured in downtown Cairo’s Esa-af district.

AD