Blast hits Italian consulate in Cairo

  • 11/07/2015
It was not immediately clear what caused the blast (David Degner/Twitter)
It was not immediately clear what caused the blast (David Degner/Twitter)

By Abdelhalim Abdallah

A powerful bomb has ripped through the Italian consulate in Cairo, killing one person, the first assault on a foreign mission in Egypt in a two-year jihadist campaign against security forces.

The consulate in central Cairo was closed at the time of the explosion around 6:30am (4:30pm NZT) on Saturday, which brought down the facade of the building and could be heard across the capital.

A health ministry spokesman said the blast killed one person and wounded four. Medics had earlier said two policemen and three passers-by had been wounded.

Italy swiftly condemned the attack, with its foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni saying "Italy will not let itself be intimidated."

He added on Twitter that there were no Italian casualties.

Militants have carried out scores of attacks since the army overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, killing hundreds of policemen and soldiers mostly in the Sinai Peninsula.

Diplomats had told AFP they had been warned by police months ago that embassies could be targeted, but it was not clear whether this was based on specific intelligence.

At least one Western embassy had relocated over security concerns.

The Italian consul in Cairo arrived at the scene of the attack and went inside the building to inspect it, refusing to speak to reporters.

The official MENA news agency reported that the blast was caused by car bomb.

It brought down part of the building, and the remains of at least one vehicle were strewn on the street.

A small wooden police kiosk outside the consulate was completely destroyed.

The attack came less than two weeks after suspected militants assassinated the country's top prosecutor in a car bombing in the capital.

In Sinai, jihadists loyal to the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria launched a wave of attacks on July 1 that killed at least 21 soldiers.

The Islamic State group, which controls parts of Iraq and Syria, has called on its affiliates elsewhere to attack Western targets.

Last week's attacks had prompted President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to pledge tougher laws with the cabinet set to approve a controversial anti-terrorism law that sparked an uproar among journalists and rights activists.