CAIRO — A powerful explosion outside the Italian Consulate in downtown Cairo early Saturday killed at least one person and was the first major bombing of a foreign diplomatic mission since the start of an insurgency nearly two years ago.
The explosion, around 6:15 a.m., was heard around the city and caused the collapse of several parts of the consulate’s walls. Initial reports from state television said the cause of the explosion was a car bomb, which detonated near one of the capital’s busiest intersections and under a major bridge. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
At least seven people were injured, including three passers-by who were members of the same family, according to a Health Ministry spokesman.
An Italian diplomat told The Associated Press that the consulate was closed at the time of the explosion and that no staff members were wounded.
The bombing was the latest sign of escalating tactics by militants who had previously confined their attacks mainly to the state’s security services, killing hundreds of police officers and soldiers over the last two years. It came less than two weeks after a car bomb in Cairo killed Egypt’s top prosecutor, the first senior government official to be killed in the insurgency.
Two days after the June 29 assassination of the prosecutor, Hisham Barakat, a jihadist group affiliated with the Islamic State mounted its largest ever assault on the Egyptian military in the northern Sinai Peninsula.
The attacks have challenged the leadership of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a former general who led the military takeover of the government two years ago and rose to power vowing to impose security after years of street protests and political turmoil.
Recent attacks have also targeted Egypt’s most popular tourist destinations, including the Karnak Temple in Luxor, threatening a pillar of the country’s economy.
Many foreign missions had tightened security measures at their embassies and consulates in response to local instability and growing threats from regional militant groups. The red-ocher Italian Consulate building did not appear to be heavily fortified from several of its approaches, including an alley on the side of the building that appeared to be the site of the explosion.