Three bombs exploded Wednesday outside Cairo University's main campus, hitting riot police deployed against near daily protests by Islamist students, killing a police general and wounding seven others, including several top police officers.
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The bombings were the latest in a campaign of attacks targeting Egypt's police and military that began with the ouster last summer of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. The attacks are taking place amid a fierce crackdown by security forces against pro-Morsi protesters and members of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood.
The staggered nature of the blasts in a relatively close area introduced a new tactic. The first two bombs, which security officials said were hidden at the foot of a tree, went off less than a minute apart. The third, concealed up another tree nearby, exploded nearly two hours later.
The first two blasts killed the police general and wounded seven, the officials said. They had earlier reported that a civilian was also killed, but later explained that the general's civilian clothes had led to confusion and that he was the lone fatality in the bombings. They identified him as Brig. Gen. Tareq al-Margawy.
No one was harmed by the last explosion. Egyptian state TV described the bombs as crude and homemade.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.
An Associated Press television cameraman at the scene said the three blasts took place near a makeshift police post, where officers usually stay near truckloads of riot police.
Several students detained
The cameraman was barely 20 metres away when the third bomb went off. He and other journalists were then chased away by police from the area.
After the bombing, police chased down and detained several students on the streets nearby. There was no immediate word on the number of arrests.
Cairo University, along with other university campuses, has been a major center for the near daily protests by pro-Morsi students against the military-backed interim government — since the monthslong crackdown has largely crushed protests elsewhere. The university protests often turn into clashes with security forces.
Wednesday's bombs appeared to target riot police deployed outside Cairo University to confront any protests, though none were going on at the time of the blasts.
The wounded included four civilians and three senior police officers, including Maj. Gen. Abdel-Raouf El-Sirafy, who is the deputy chief of police in the Giza province, parts of which are located in the Greater Cairo area. Cairo University's main campus is in Giza.
El-Sissi denounces bombings
Egypt has seen a series of suicide bombings, car bombings and assassination targeting security forces, and an al-Qaeda-inspired militant group based in the Sinai Peninsula called Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, has taken responsibility for most of them. Cruder bombings have also targeted police patrols and positions in the street, often claimed by lesser known militant groups.
Interim Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab attended the funeral of the slain police officer. The country's most powerful political figure, former military chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi — who removed Morsi in July and this month left the military to launch a run for president — denounced the bombings in a statement and vowed, "Egypt will march forward and will not succumb to black terrorism."
The military-backed interim government has branded Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, accusing it of organizing the campaign of violence while it pushes ahead with protests against Morsi's removal by the military. Hundreds of Islamists have been killed and more than 16,000 arrested in authorities' bid to crush the Brotherhood.
The group denies any link to terror organizations and insists its protests are peaceful. It says the prosecution of its members is intended to give a legal veneer to what it sees as the illegal removal of an elected president.