02/19/2019, 09.58
EGYPT
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Attacker detonates suicide vest in chase with police, killing two

The explosion also killed the suicide bomber and wounded three other policemen. Serious damage to some shops in the area. The man was suspected of having placed a bomb in recent days in Giza; police defused the bomb. The question of security re-emerges, with possible repercussions on tourism. The condolences of the Churches of Egypt.

Cairo (AsiaNews) - At least two policemen were killed and three others injured inan attack that took place late yesterday evening in the old city of Cairo. The agents were chasing a man who was suspected of having hit security members near a mosque in the capital last week. "While the police were surrounding the man and were preparing to proceed with arrest - a note from the Ministry of the Interior said - an explosive device was detonated that [the suspect] had with him".

The explosion occurred in the Darb al-Ahmar district, an area of ​​high population density in the heart of Cairo, not far from the al-Azhar mosque. The blast also killed the bomber, who died on the spot, and damaged several stores in the area.

"The front of my shop and the windows have been destroyed," emphasizes Kareem Sayed Awad, a barber. "This is a tourist area - he adds - and accidents of this nature end up damaging it".

The policemen were on the trail of the suspect, in the context of a larger operation aimed at identifying the person responsible for a (failed) attack on 15 February last in Giza. A man had placed explosives near a security post adjacent to a mosque. However, police intervened promptly and defused the bomb.

Analysts and experts point out that attacks in popular areas frequented by foreigners are even more likely to hit the tourism industry, one of the most important resources for the national economy and one of the worst hit by the Islamic jihadist escalation.

In December, three Vietnamese and their Egyptian guide died in the explosion of a device that hit their bus on the outskirts of Cairo, not far from the pyramids of Giza.

President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi has repeatedly promised an all-out fight against terrorism and violence, one of the key factors that have enabled him to win a second term last April. In the last few years the tourism data indicated an improvement: in 2017 there were 8.3 million visitors, compared to 5.3 of the previous year. However, the value is still far from the 14 million of 2010.

This morning the Council of Churches of Egypt has expressed in a note its "condolences" for the death of the agents, wishing "ready recovery" to the wounded and peace for the nation. As pointed out to AsiaNews by Fr. Rafic Greiche, spokesman for the Egyptian Catholic Church, in the recent period "the security situation has improved"; nevertheless, the danger of attacks and violence is "always present" and is an element with which "the population lives together" every day, without being blocked "by fear".

In a nation of almost 95 million people with a large Muslim majority, Christians [especially Orthodox Copts] are a substantial minority, equal to about 10% of the total population. Between 2016 and 2017 the Land of the Pharaohs recorded a series of bloody attacks, which involved the Christian community itself.

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