Roadside explosion in Cairo kills Egyptian policeman

CAIRO (Reuters) - An Egyptian policeman was killed and four wounded by a roadside explosive near the Cairo suburb of Maadi on Sunday, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

“At around 12:45 a.m. on June 18 as a vehicle belonging to the Central Security Forces transported a group of officers and conscripts an improvised explosive device planted on the roadside went off,” the ministry said.

“This led to the martyrdom of First Lieutenant Ali Abdelkhaliq and the injury of four others, an officer and three conscripts, who have been taken to hospital for treatment.”

A recently emerged Egyptian militant group claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement published on its Telegram messaging account late on Sunday.

The Hasm movement, which has claimed several attacks in Cairo in recent months, said today’s attack is to “emphasize that the central security forces targeted today have received a part of the punishment for what they have committed.”

Hasm, the Arabic word for decisiveness, has accused security forces of killing “peaceful protesters” and “assaulting and oppressing” protesters who have demonstrated against the plan to cede two inhabited Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, the statement added.

The group said the executors of Sunday’s attack have returned safely to their bases and promised to carry out more attacks in the coming days.

Parliament voted on Wednesday to back a treaty to handover the two uninhabited islands of Tiran and Sanfir and Sisi is expected to ratify the decision soon.

The plan triggered street protests over the past few days from a small groups of Egyptians, who say their country’s sovereignty over the islands dates back to a treaty from 1906, before Saudi Arabia was founded.

The bomb was detonated remotely, and an initial examination suggested it was detonated using a mobile phone SIM card, a senior Interior Ministry official told state news agency MENA.

A joint task force made up of several police units is questioning tenants of flats overlooking the site of the attack to try to identify and arrest the culprits, the official said.

Egypt faces an Islamist insurgency led by the Islamic State group in the restive Sinai Peninsula, where hundreds of soldiers and police have been killed since 2013.

The group has also increasingly carried out attacks in the mainland on security forces and Coptic Christian civilians in recent months, killing around 100 Copts since December.

Other militant groups such as Hasm, which the government says are linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, are active in Cairo and other cities where they have targeted security forces, judges, and pro-government figures.

The Brotherhood, outlawed in 2013 after the military ousted one of its leaders, Mohamed Mursi, from the presidency following mass protests, maintains that it is a peaceful organization.

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the general who led Mursi’s ouster, was elected president in 2014.

Reporting by Mohamed el Sherif and ALi Abdelatti; Writing by Ahmed Aboulenein and Amina Ismail; Editing by Paul Tait and Tom Hogue