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Bomb targets head of Egyptian police force

| Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013, 7:57 p.m.

CAIRO — Egypt's interior minister escaped an assassination attempt on Thursday when a suspected car bomb struck his convoy in a Cairo neighborhood, in the first attack on a senior government official since the country's Islamist president was toppled in a coup two months ago.

The blast targeting Mohammed Ibrahim, who is in charge of the police force, fueled concerns over a possible wave of violence in retaliation for the July 3 ouster of Mohamed Morsy and the ensuing crackdown on Islamists.

More than 20 people were wounded, including police and civilian bystanders, and some vehicles in Ibrahim's convoy were heavily damaged— though he was not hurt. Security officials said initial investigations showed it came from a parked car loaded with explosives in the trunk. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the probe was not complete.

The attack echoed the sort of insurgency-style methods that Islamic militants have increasingly used in Egypt's tumultuous Sinai Peninsula. Last month, militants there attempted a suicide car bombing but were killed by police before carrying it out.

The bombing harkened back to the insurgency waged by Islamic militants in the 1980s and 1990s against the rule of now-ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

At that time, militants targeted several senior officials, killing the parliament speaker and attempting to assassinate at least four successive interior ministers, the last in 1993. Mubarak himself survived an assassination attempt in 1994, when militants attacked his convoy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Some of Morsy's more hard-line supporters have publicly threatened to wage a campaign of assassinations and car bombings against officials of the military-backed government until the former president is reinstated.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast.

The Anti-Coup Coalition, which groups Morsy's Muslim Brotherhood and allied Islamist factions, condemned the attack, saying “it is against any violent act, even if it is against those who committed crimes against the people, because we aim to uphold the law.”

It warned that authorities will use the blast as a pretext to extend a state of emergency in place since Morsy's removal and to increase “oppression” and arrests of Islamists.

The explosion detonated in the late morning as Ibrahim's convoy passed through Nasr City, an eastern district of Cairo that is a stronghold of the Brotherhood. Among those wounded were 10 police and 11 civilians, including a 7-year-old child whose right leg was amputated, the security officials said.

A mangled body was found near the car believed to have been used as the bomb, and investigators were working to determine whether it was that of a bystander, a bomber or a lookout tasked with observing the convoy's approach, the officials said.

The blast left a main avenue in Nasr City strewn with charred skeletons of vehicles, and a fire in one expelled heavy black smoke. Nearby storefronts were heavily damaged, and windows of nearby apartment buildings were shattered.

Clearly shaken, Ibrahim said on state television that his black SUV was directly hit by a “large-size explosive device” that badly damaged it along with four other vehicles in the convoy.

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