Egypt state prosecutor dead after Cairo bomb attack
CAIRO - Egypt's state prosecutor Hisham Barakat had died in hospital hours after a bomb struck his convoy in Cairo on Monday, two government ministers said.
"He has passed away," Justice Minister Ahmed al-Zind said at the hospital where Barakat had been taken. Another minister confirmed that Barakat was dead.
The bomb destroyed several cars and blew out storefront windows in the upscale district of Heliopolis. At least five vehicles were completely gutted in the explosion.
There were specks of blood on the street.
At the hospital, a bruised bodyguard recounted to prosecutors how the blast hit Barakat's convoy as it headed to his office.
"There was a massive blast all of a sudden," he said, in the presence of an AFP journalist. "There was glass flying everywhere. It was as if there was an earthquake."
Witnesses at the scene of the blast said one of the charred vehicles had belonged to prosecutor.
"I heard a loud explosion and ran to the site. Barakat's car was on fire," said Shaama Abdel Fattah.
Bomb squad chief General Mohamed Gamal said it was either a car bomb or a bomb concealed underneath a vehicle.
The bombing came after the Islamic State group's affiliate in Egypt called for attacks on the judiciary following the hanging of six alleged militants.
- Jihadists claim judge shooting -
Gunmen in the Sinai peninsula, where the jihadists are based, had shot dead two judges and a prosecutor in May.
The group released a video on Sunday purporting to show that attack in the north Sinai city of El-Arish. Gunmen in a car pulled up to the van transporting the judges and sprayed it with rifle fire.
Barakat has referred thousands of Islamists to trial since the military's overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, with hundreds then sentenced to death.
Monday's attack was the most brazen against a senior official in Cairo since jihadists tried to assassinate the then interior minister in a suicide car bombing in late 2013.
Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, the Sinai-based organisation that later pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, claimed responsibility for that attack.
In May, the group called for attacks on judges in an audio message posted online.
The recording came after authorities hanged six men convicted of participating in militant attacks.
"By God, we will seek vengeance for our brothers and others like them, from the party that sentenced them, and the party that implemented the sentence," the jihadist group said in the recording.
The militants have killed scores of policemen and soldiers in attacks since Morsi's overthrow, mostly in the Sinai peninsula.
The group carried out several high profile attacks in Cairo and the Nile valley in 2013 and 2014 before police killed or arrested its members in those areas.
The government of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who as army chief toppled Morsi, has blamed his Muslim Brotherhood movement for the violence.
Sisi has pledged to eradicate the group, once the largest political movement in Egypt.
At least 1,400 people, mostly Islamist supporters, have been killed in a police crackdown on protests, and much of the Brotherhood's leadership has been arrested.
Courts have sentenced hundreds to death, including Morsi himself, who was convicted of involvement in attacks on police stations.
Morsi's sentence is being appealed.