Central Cairo blast kills 2 senior policemen, as 6 more die in military helicopter crash

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CAIRO — A roadside bomb went off on Sunday on a busy downtown Cairo street near the Nile-side Egyptian Foreign Ministry, killing two senior policemen, the Interior Ministry said in a statement.

In a separate incident, a military helicopter on a training mission crashed in an oasis province some 100 kilometers (65 miles) southwest of Cairo, killing six people, according to state television and chief military spokesman Brig. Gen. Mohammed Samir.

The crash in Fayoum was caused by a technical malfunction and Defense Minister Gen. Sedki Sobhi ordered an investigation into the incident, they said.

The 10:45 a.m. blast in Cairo targeted a police checkpoint near the back gate of the 34-story ministry building. Several people were wounded, said the ministry. It identified the two officers as Lt. Cols. Khaled Saafan and Mohammed Abu Sreeah. It said several other policemen were wounded by the blast, including a police major general and another lieutenant colonel.

Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab cut short a tour of the Suez Canal city of Ismailia and headed back to Cairo following news of the explosion.

Security officials said seven people were injured in the blast and that security forces evacuated four nearby schools as a precaution while bomb squad teams combed the area searching for more explosives.

At the Foreign Ministry, security was immediately beefed up after the blast, with more intensive checks of cars and bags. Security was also stepped up at the nearby building housing state television and radio.

The officials said police on Sunday defused three similar roadside bombs planted in the Nile Delta cities of Tanta and Mahallah.

The officials said Abu Sreeah, one of the two policemen killed in the Cairo blast, was a key prosecution witness in one of several trials involving ousted Islamist president Mohammed Morsi and others from the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood group. They face charges that they conspired to break out of prison during the 2011 uprising that ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Abu Sreeah was working at the prison at the time of the break, but it was not clear whether he was specifically targeted by Sunday's blast. Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected leader, was ousted by the military in July 2013 after serving just 12 months in office.

The security officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Sunday's blast coincided with the reopening of schools after the summer break, an occasion that routinely sees massive traffic congestion throughout the city of some 18 million people.

Egypt has faced a violent campaign by militants since last year's ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. The campaign has mostly targeted security forces, first in the Sinai Peninsula, but more recently in the capital, the Nile Delta and remote areas such as the western desert.

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