A deadly blast in central Cairo late Sunday, which was first blamed on a car crash, was actually caused by one of the cars in the crash, a vehicle packed with explosives and intended for use in a future terrorist attack elsewhere, Egyptian security forces said Monday.
At least 20 people were killed and 48 injured, three of them critically, according to the Egyptian Health Ministry.
The explosives-laden vehicle was being driven against traffic, the Interior Ministry said in a statement, when it crashed into three cars on the Nile Corniche in front of the National Cancer Institute, a major hospital. There was no explanation about why the car was being driven against traffic, other than that it was being driven somewhere else to be used in a future act of terrorism. No details as to where or when were given.
The explosion destroyed the hospital’s facade and shattered its windows. Footage on local news websites from moments after the blast shows cars ablaze and people being carried from the area. A “bag of remains” has been collected from the scene, the Health Ministry said in a statement.
President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt released a statement Monday calling the crash and explosion a “cowardly terrorist incident,” and offering condolences to the victims’ families and the Egyptian people. The state is determined to uproot terrorism, the president said.
The scale of the explosion had raised public skepticism over the Interior Ministry’s initial account, which was released shortly after the episode, that it resulted from a collision of a few cars, with no mention of explosives.
The ministry said the vehicle that set off the explosion was linked to Hasm, a group made up of breakaway members of the Muslim Brotherhood, once the country’s largest Islamist group, which has been outlawed since 2013.
The Brotherhood denies involvement in any violence, but the government has linked it to most terror attacks in Egypt since 2013, including those the Islamic State has said it carried out.
Hasm, which the government considers a violent arm of the Brotherhood, has carried out attacks in Cairo, but mainly against security forces, not civilians. Hasm and another group formed by disaffected Brotherhood members, Liwa al-Thawra, have been designated as terrorist organizations by the United States government.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s leading member, Mohammed Morsi, became Egypt’s first democratically elected president, in 2012, but a year later he was ousted by the military. Since then the Brotherhood has been battered by a sustained crackdown that has left most of its members dead, imprisoned or in exile. Mr. Morsi died in court two months ago.