CAIRO, Egypt — An early morning assault by masked gunmen on an army bus ferrying troops through an eastern district of the Egyptian capital left one soldier dead and three others wounded on March 13, according to security officials and a military spokesman. The military immediately blamed the Muslim Brotherhood, the recently outlawed Islamist movement, for the assault, the latest in a string of attacks targeting security forces since Egypt’s Brotherhood-backed president was toppled in a military coup last summer.
In the attack, gunmen on motorbikes opened fire on a bus belonging to the army’s Military Police as it traveled through Cairo’s eastern Amiriyah district, security officials told the Associated Press. According to witnesses cited by the private CBC network, four gunmen on two motorcycles approaching from opposite directions sprayed the bus with gunfire. No group asserted responsibility for the attack.
Colonel Ahmed Mohammed Ali, the spokesman for the Egyptian military, blamed the Brotherhood, which was recently designated as a terrorist organization, for the early morning assault. In a statement on the Egyptian military’s official Facebook page, Ali accused, “armed men belonging to the terrorist Brotherhood group of targeting an armed forces bus… in Al-Amiriyah district.”
The July 3, 2013 popularly-supported coup that toppled President Mohammad Morsi, an Islamist backed by the Brotherhood, ushered in a violent period for the Arab world’s most populous nation, as Islamist militants unleashed a wave of attacks targeting government institutions and security forces. Most of the attacks have been confined to the northern part Egypt’s lawless and sparsely populated Sinai Peninsula, home to Bedouin tribes that have long been marginalized by the country’s distant central government.
Some of the Islamist violence has seeped into the Egyptian capital, however. In September 2013, Egypt’s Interior Minister, Mohammed Ibrahim, narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in Cairo that killed one bystander and wounded others. And on a particularly bloody day in January, a series of five bomb blasts ripped through Egypt’s capital, killing six people, including four when a truck packed with explosives blew up outside Cairo’s central police headquarters.
Since the coup that ousted Morsi, the country’s first democratically-elected president, Egypt’s military backed government has unleashed a brutal crackdown targeting the Brotherhood, which dominated politics during the period of military rule after longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak was overthrown. In the 16 months of military rule Mubarak was toppled, the Brotherhood won the presidency as well as control of both the upper and lower houses of country’s parliament, making it the most powerful political force in post-Mubarak Egypt.
Since the coup, however, the Brotherhoods political fortunes have plummeted, as most of its leading figures, including Supreme Guide Mohammad Badi and his powerful deputy, Khairat Shater, have been imprisoned and put on trial. Morsi, who had only been in power a year when he was removed in a coup spearheaded by military chief and possible presidential contender Field Marshall Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, has also been put trial.
In September 2013, an Egyptian court banned the Brotherhood and “its non-governmental organization and all the activities that it participates in and any organization derived from it.” A ruling by a separate court in November 2013 upheld the September 2013 decision outlawing the Brotherhood and also ordered the Islamist groups’ assets seized. In December, Egypt’s government designated the Brotherhood, a Sunni Islamist movement founded in Egypt in 1928, as a terrorist organization.