EL-ARISH, Egypt (AP) — A car bomb exploded Saturday near an Egyptian military intelligence compound in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia, wounding six soldiers, security officials said, as militants appear to be expanding the scope of attacks beyond the restive Sinai Peninsula.
Meanwhile, state media said top security officials testified behind closed doors in Cairo in the retrial of former president Hosni Mubarak, who faces charges related to the killings of some 900 protesters during the 2011 uprising that led to his ouster.
The blast in Ismailia came as some returned to work after the major Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. Security officials said part of the compound’s wall collapsed and a nearby commercial building, belonging to the Suez Canal Authority, was damaged. Soldiers sealed off the area as authorities began an investigation into the blast, they said.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to brief journalists.
Col. Ahmed Mohammed Ali, a military spokesman, later said in a statement posted to his official Facebook page that the Ismailia bombing was the latest in the string of “cowardly terrorist attacks” on Egypt’s military facilities.
Ismailia borders the restive Sinai Peninsula, where the military is on the offensive against insurgents who frequently target Egypt’s security forces and facilities. A low-intensity militant insurgency has hit the peninsula, where Islamist radicals have a strong base.
In recent weeks, militants have taken their fight against the security forces beyond northern Sinai, carrying out bombings in the Suez Canal area and even in the Egyptian capital.
An attempt to assassinate the interior minister with a car bomb last month in Cairo has raised fears of an escalating Islamic militant campaign of revenge over the July 3 military coup that ousted Egypt’s first democratically elected president Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood-led government.
Also Saturday, the trial of Morsi’s authoritarian predecessor resumed as two security officials, including former intelligence chief Murad Muwafi, took the stand in court, state-owned Nile TV said. The presiding judge previously ordered that testimony of security officials take place under a media blackout for reasons of national security.
Mubarak, Egypt’s 85-year-old longtime autocrat was previously convicted of failing to stop the killings of protesters, but that was overturned on appeals earlier this year.
In addition to Mubarak, six top police officials and the former interior minister, who oversaw Egypt’s feared police for more than a decade, are on trial.
Security, already volatile in Egypt since 2011, has worsened since the July coup. Hundreds of Morsi supporters have held near-weekly rallies, demanding his reinstatement and an end to a crackdown on the Brotherhood. Nearly 2,000 members of the group have been arrested since the coup.
On Saturday, at least 200 students and Morsi supporters marched inside at Cairo’s Al-Azhar university, Sunni Islam’s main seat of learning, as classes resumed. They chanted slogans against the military and demanded Sheik Ahmed el-Tayeb, the powerful head of Al-Azhar mosque, leave his post. The start of the academic year at Al-Azhar had been postponed because of unrest.
Associated Press writers Mariam Rizk, Sarah El Deeb and Barbara Surk in Cairo contributed to this report.