A massive car bomb claimed by fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) ripped into a national security building in a working class residential neighborhood in Cairo early Thursday, wounding at least 29 people and blowing the facades off nearby buildings.
The blast, which went off around 2 a.m., demolished a wall in front of the government building, smashed its structure and left gaping holes exposing its offices. Of those hurt, 11 were police and soldiers. No deaths were reported.
Glass from blown-out windows littered the surrounding streets in the Shubra el-Kheima neighborhood, at the northern entrance to the capital.
Ambulances and fire trucks rushed to the scene, which was flooded with water from pipes broken by what authorities said were high explosives. The explosion could be heard and felt across the city. State news agency MENA reported the casualties hours later.
Emergency aid chief Ahmed al-Ansari said the wounded were evacuated to nearby hospitals. Wrecked cars stood around the building, as security forces carrying assault rifles patrolled the streets and set up roadblocks to ward off distraught residents. A crater marked the blast's apparent position, while a car engine sat where it landed on the other side of street.
ISIL claimed responsibility for the car bombing, saying on its Al-Bayan radio station that "soldiers of the caliphate" had carried it out. A statement issued by their affiliate in Egypt and circulated by supporters online said it was to avenge the execution of six convicted members in May. The men were convicted on charges which included carrying out an attack in which two Egyptian army officers were killed in a village north of Cairo.
A similar statement emerged last month following a bombing outside the Italian Consulate in Cairo. Previous large-scale attacks have been claimed by an ISIL affiliate based in the northern Sinai Peninsula.
Egypt has been wracked by a wave of attacks since President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi overthrew Mohamed Morsi and launched a heavy crackdown against his Muslim Brotherhood supporters – and dissent in general.
Last weekend, Sisi decreed a new anti-terrorism law presented amid a wave of violence and killings this summer. The far-reaching new law sets a sweeping definition for who can face a harsh set of punishments. Journalists can be fined for reporting that contradicts Defense Ministry statements.
Egypt has lacked a legislature for three years, and since being elected a little over a year ago, Sisi has single-handedly passed dozens of laws.
The Cabinet approved the draft anti-terrorism law last month, two days after a car bomb in an upscale Cairo neighborhood killed the country's prosecutor general, Hisham Barakat. The law has come under fire from human rights groups that accuse Sisi of rolling back freedoms won in the 2011 uprising.
On the day it was approved by ministers, armed fighters launched a multi-pronged attack attempting to seize a northern Sinai town, hitting the military with suicide attacks and battling soldiers for hours.
The violence has largely been confined to the restive northern part of the Sinai Peninsula, but Cairo and other parts of the mainland have been rocked by a series of mostly small-scale explosions targeting police.
A huge truck bomb in January 2014 targeting Cairo's security headquarters killed four people and damaged a nearby museum dedicated to Islamic arts and history.
A month earlier, a car bomb tore through a security headquarters in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura, killing 16 people, nearly all policemen. Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, as the Sinai outfit was known before it pledged allegiance to ISIL last year, claimed responsibility.
Al Jazeera and wire services