CAIRO: Two police officers were killed when a terror suspect blew himself up after he was surrounded by police near Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo on Monday.
The blast in the crowded Darb Al-Ahmar district also killed the bomber and injured three other policemen, the interior ministry said.
“As security surrounded the man and was set to arrest and control him, an explosive device in his possession went off,” the ministry said in a press statement.
The explosion took place after police chased the suspect who they believe had planted a bomb near a security staff close to a mosque in Giza on Friday, the statement said. Security officers had been able to defuse that device.
Monday’s explosion that took place near Al Azhar mosque at the heart of ancient Islamic Cairo damaged several shops.
“My shop’s front and windows were destroyed,” said Kareem Sayed Awad, a barbershop owner. “Not only that, but people have died. This is a tourist area and such incidents affect it.”
Egypt’s tourism industry has been struggling to recover from attacks and domestic instability that has hit the country in the years following a 2011 uprising that toppled longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak.
In December three Vietnamese tourists and their Egyptian guide died when a homemade bomb exploded on their bus on the outskirts of Cairo, near the famed pyramids in Giza.
Authorities have been seeking to lure tourists back by touting new archaeological discoveries and bolstering security around archaeological sites and in airports.
Tourism has slowly started picking up. The official statistics agency says tourist arrivals in Egypt in 2017 reached 8.3 million, up from 5.3 million the year before.
But that figure was still far short of the record influx in 2010 when over 14 million visitors flocked to the country.
Egypt has also for years been battling an Islamist insurgency, which deepened following military’s ousting of Islamist president Muhammad Mursi in 2013.
The attacks have been mainly concentrated in the restive northern Sinai Peninsula but have also spread to the mainland.
In February 2018, security forces launched a major anti-militant operation focused on the Sinai Peninsula, aimed at wiping out a local affiliate of the Daesh group.
On Saturday, an attack on an Egyptian army checkpoint in north Sinai left 15 soldiers dead or wounded and seven of the suspected jihadist assailants killed, according to the military.