CAIRO — A strong blast hit a busy district in central Cairo on Tuesday night, leaving 12 injured, Egypt’s official news agency reported, as a court sentenced seven Islamic militants to death over earlier terror attacks.
MENA quoted a senior security official as saying that the explosion was caused by a home-made bomb placed in the vicinity of a courthouse. The site of the attack is a busy district and near a subway station.
The agency quoted Mohammed Sultan, a health minister official as saying that the blast caused no deaths and that 12 people were injured. No further details were immediately available.
Egypt has witnessed a series of suicide bombings, assassinations and attacks over the past year after the military overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi after demonstrations demanding his resignation.
Morsi’s ouster and a subsequent clamp down on his supporters sparked a wave of Islamic militants’ attacks targeting mainly police and army.
Most of the major attacks were carried by al-Qaeda-inspired group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis or Champions of Jerusalem which is based in northern region of Sinai Peninsula where Egyptian army carried a year-long offensive.
Earlier in the day, an Egyptian court sentenced seven convicted militants to death — all but one in absentia — over the killing of 25 soldiers last year.
The ruling focused on chief suspect Adel Ibrahim also known as Adel Habarra, who is in custody and whom authorities said has been previously convicted in connection to bombings in the Red Sea resort of Taba in 2004, a claim his lawyers denied.
Authorities have said he is a senior member of Ansar Beit al-Maqdis. The group did not claim responsibility for the killing of the 25 soldiers.
The decision is to be reviewed by the country’s grand Mufti, whose opinion is consultative. A final ruling is scheduled to be issued on Dec. 6.
The attack last year saw militants ambush two minibuses carrying off-duty policemen in broad daylight near the border town of Rafah, days after security forces killed hundreds of people in a crackdown on sprawling protest camps in Cairo set up by Morsi supporters.
Protests have waned amid the ongoing crackdown on Morsi supporters and other government critics. But as the school year started this week, students rallied at many universities across the country. Security forces stormed at least two large universities to quell demonstrations.
Human Rights Watch said Tuesday that more than 110 university students have been arrested since Saturday. The rights group said security forces arrested students in their homes and from the protests on university campuses. Human Rights Watch called on Egyptian authorities to release the students, saying the arrests “appear to be solely directed at the students’ peaceful exercise of the right to free assembly.”
“This mass arrest of students is a pre-emptive strike on free speech and free assembly,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director, in the statement.
Security forces have permanently deployed around a number of campuses, and universities enacted new regulations to curb student activities. Last year universities saw regular protests that routinely descended into violence.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press