After the deadly attack against an army bus during which a soldier was shot dead two days ago, Egyptians state media reported on Saturday that five soldiers were been shot moments after dawn prayers by gunmen at a checkpoint in suburb of Shubra al-Khayma in Cairo.
The death toll could have been much higher since the gunmen also planted three explosive devices that were probably aimed at killing or injuring passers-by or rescuers. Two of the bombs were promptly defused by security forces, while the third one was set off through a controlled detonation.
The killings are the latest episode of a series of armed assaults against military personnel that have been taking place since last July when Islamist leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and former prime minister, Mohammad Morsi, was overthrown by the military after weeks of popular protests against his government, accused of steering the country down an Islamist path and of being unable to tackle the growing economic crisis.
Morsi is currently in jail and faces four trials with charges that include espionage, killing of opposition protesters and is also accused of planning terrorist acts. In a statement released by Col. Ahmed Ali, the Egyptian military blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for the attack.
The Muslim Brotherhood has not responded to the accusations linking the group to Saturday’s ambush but the army is convinced they are behind the upsurge in attacks that rocked the country over the past few months, leading the Egyptian interim government to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a “terrorist group” last December.
The Muslim Brotherhood has condemned the wave of attacks and has declared to want pacific confrontation with the government. However, some analysts believe that members of the group may have radicalized over the past few months, aftet thousands of them after been killed in fights against the army.
In recent months shooting and car bombs in Cairo and throughout Egypt have killed 200 troops and many of them were claimed by the Sinai-based terrorist group “Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis” that was also responsible for bombing a bus of South Korean tourists in the Red Sea city of Taba last February.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the group announced on Saturday that Tawfik Freij, one of its founding members, died last week when the explosive he was transporting on his vehicle went off. It is believed that the late Mr. Freij was the mind behind a number of attacks in the Sinai area, as well as an attempt to kill the Egyptian interior minister bombing the police headquarters in Cairo six months ago.
The last incident happens just weeks before the April elections in which Military Chief Marshall Abdul Fattah al-Sis is due to run for president and is expected to win with a landslide. Al-Sisi has been accused lately of unleashing a military crackdown on Brotherhood members after Morsi’s fall, but he remains a highly esteemed figure in the Egyptian political landscape.
The election of al-Sisi as president next April may lead to an upsurge in violence from Islamist groups through the streets of Cairo or perhaps his leadership and his close links with the army may help to put an end to deadly attacks like those who claimed the life of five soldiers on Saturday and rebalance the social divide within the country.
By Stefano Salustri