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Cairo bombing: Islamic State affiliate claims responsibility

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MOHAMED ABD EL GHANY/Reuters

(Read caption) Security officials stand guard at the site of a bomb blast at a state security building in Shubra Al-Khaima, on the outskirts of Cairo, Aug. 20.

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An Egyptian militant group affiliated with the self-declared Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a car bomb that exploded outside a government security building in Cairo Thursday.

The group, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, also known as Sinai Province of IS, claimed responsibility in a series of tweets, saying that the attack was made in response to the execution of six of its members last month by the Egyptian government, which had convicted the men of killing Army officers. "Let the apostates of the police and army, the followers of Jews, know we are a people who do not forget our revenge," one of the tweets said, according to Reuters.

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The bomb exploded around 2 a.m. Thursday, outside the compound of a national security agency building in a northern Cairo neighborhood, injuring at least 29 people, according to government reports. Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram writes that the blast "caused severe damage to the four-storey building and tore down part of its perimeter wall. The blast blew facades off of nearby buildings and shattered the windshields of vehicles parked outside." Six policemen and seven conscripts were among the wounded. No deaths have been reported.

The Guardian notes that Ansar Beit al-Maqdis has been waging an ongoing campaign against Egypt's police and security forces, attacking their buildings in Cairo and Mansoura in recent years. But the group has been most deadly in the Sinai peninsula, where it primarily operates. Early last month, the group killed some 70 soldiers in a series of coordinated attacks around the region, in what The Christian Science Monitor's Dan Murphy called "the most sophisticated and challenging to the Egyptian state in Sinai, or anywhere else in the country for that matter, for decades."

In the first decade of this century, most spectacular attacks in the area were on civilian targets – frequently tourist resorts – after the fashion of Al Qaeda. But in recent years the leading militant group in the area, Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, which pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) last year and increasingly has shared its goals, has turned to attacks on the military and other arms of the state. ...

The Egyptian military's practice of scattering small checkpoints around northern Sinai, often manned by lightly armed and barely trained conscripts, has created an environment rich with targets for the militants, who [in the July attack] used suicide bombs, light arms, IEDs, and anti-aircraft guns affixed to trucks.

The blast comes just three days after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi enacted a swath of new laws that he claims are needed to fight the insurgent groups currently plaguing the country. The laws create special courts for use against terrorism suspects, and impose sentences of five to seven years for creating websites that spread terrorist propaganda; up to 10 years for joining a terrorist group; and up to 25 years for financing such groups.

But critics like Mohamed Elmessiry, Egypt researcher at Amnesty International, say that the laws would take Egypt "back to the Mubarak era and the 30-year state of emergency that helped push Egyptians to the streets in 2011." They note that the government has used similar laws as tools to repress dissent, particularly by the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic party that briefly won power after the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak.

Sisi has accused the Brotherhood of multiple acts of terrorism, including the assassination of the prosecutor general in June. The group denies any involvement, and disclaims violence.