Terrorism |

Deadly Cairo blast caused by explosives-packed car



Onlookers and Egyptian security forces gather around a charred car, following an accident just before midnight on August 4th, outside the National Cancer Institute in central Cairo. [Aly Fahim/AFP]

A huge blast which killed 20 people in Cairo was caused by a speeding car packed with explosives, Egyptian officials said Monday (August 5th) as witnesses described carnage.

The car was driving against the traffic when it smashed into three other vehicles just before midnight Sunday evening, setting off a massive explosion just outside the country's National Cancer Institute.

"There were men without heads and people covered in blood making them unrecognisable," said Mohamed Fathy, a witness.

"Some of their heads were burnt on the ground."

Four of the 20 people killed remain unidentified, the health ministry said Monday, while 47 others were wounded.

Between "three and four (of the injured) are in critical condition in the intensive care unit", Khaled Megahed, a spokesman for the health ministry, told a press conference.

He said they suffered from burns of varying degrees.

Body parts were retrieved from the scene, he added.

'Terrorist incident'

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi described the blast as a "terrorist incident", and stressed that the state is determined to "pull out terrorism by the roots".

In a social media post, he offered his condolences to the victims' families and the Egyptian people.

The interior ministry said a technical inspection indicated "an amount of explosives was inside the car, which caused it to explode when it collided".

Another witness, Mohammed, said "at first we felt pressure, pressure around us and in our ears".

"After a while we heard an explosion, it was extreme -- we thought it was an earthquake."

Social media users posted footage of cars ablaze at the scene and of patients being evacuated from the Cancer Institute, which was severely damaged and charred in the explosion.

Megahed said 78 cancer patients from the institute were moved to other hospitals to continue their treatment.

Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly has tasked Egypt's leading construction company with immediately starting repairs on the National Cancer Institute building, which was damaged in the explosion, Ahram Online reported.

The US embassy in Cairo said in a statement that it strongly condemns the bombing.

"We stand with Egypt in its fight against terrorism and we extend our condolences to the families of the victims," read the statement on the embassy's Facebook page.

Both the interior ministry and police said they suspected the Hasm group of being behind the attack.

Hasm emerged in 2016 and has in the past claimed responsibility for several attacks against Egyptian army and police personnel and attacks on religious figures.

In February 2018, the army launched a nationwide offensive against extremists, focused mainly on North Sinai, where the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) has a significant presence.

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