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Deadly Explosions Rattle Cairo


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

The Egyptian capital of Cairo has seen a lot of turmoil over the last three years, but not truck bombings until this morning. There was a large blast and then an angry crowd gathered in the streets.


MONTAGNE: That was outside one of the city's main security headquarters where at least four people were killed and dozens injured. Egypt was already heading into a tense weekend. Tomorrow marks the anniversary of the 2011 revolt against former dictator, Hosni Mubarak.

NPR's Leila Fadel joins us now from Cairo. Good morning, Leila.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: And you've been to the site of a car bombing. Tell us what you saw.

FADEL: Well, this bombing was so powerful that it shook people awake for seven miles. There was nearly a mile of buildings with shattered glass and we saw angry mobs gather very quickly and blamed the Muslim Brotherhood - the organization that was ousted from power in the summer, saying, we want the execution of the Brotherhood.

MONTAGNE: Well, there has been ongoing fight between the Islamists and the Brotherhood, between them and the military led-government - which the security forces have killed and arrested hundreds. But this truck bombing seems to be taking things up a notch. What is this going to mean?

FADEL: Well, there is a lot of concern that this will then be to a further crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. People here want stability and many Egyptians blamed the Brotherhood for the violence. The Brotherhood says, of course, that they want to continue what they call peaceful protests. They say they are not involved in these bombings and they're being unfairly blamed. So the biggest concern going forward is what will happen next. The government has excused a lot of human right abuses under the guise of the war on terror, saying it necessary to stabilize Egypt and to protect Egyptian citizens.

MONTAGNE: Tell us a bit about the political backdrop that these attacks took place. I mean the basic bottom line part of the backdrop is that the military pushed the Muslim Brotherhood out of power.

FADEL: On July 3rd, Mohammad Morsi, the former president of this country elected, was ousted from power and since then we've seen your daily protests and weekly contest from the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters. And we've seen a lot of deaths. More than 1,000 of them have been killed since then. But this interim government wants to move forward. We've seen a referendum that happened that was free but many people say not fair because dissenting voices were being silenced. And now this government wants to move on with presidential and then parliamentary elections.

Many believe that the head of the military, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, will run for president. And critics say that Egypt is really reverting back to the military dictatorship of the past where the military backed dictatorship of the past. They're saying a lot of that openness that we were seeing in the last three years, despite the instability, is now really closing and dissenting voices are really fearing to speak out - and even those who are not Islamists and not the Brotherhood, liberals as well.

MONTAGNE: Well, tell us just briefly, about when you say the past. I mean there has been that terror in Egypt even in the past.

FADEL: Right. Some analysts are saying this is reminding them of the 1990s when the Muslim Brotherhood was working underground and more radical groups than the Brotherhood were carrying out these kinds of attacks against police and against government officials. So they're saying now that these attacks are coming to the capital, we may see a resurgence of that insurgency that the government faced in the 1990s.

MONTAGNE: OK. Well, that's NPR's Leila Fadel speaking to us from Cairo. Thanks very much.

FADEL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.