Crash involving explosives-packed car caused deadly blast outside Cairo hospital

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A car packed with explosives being driven to carry out an attack collided with other vehicles and exploded outside Egypt’s main cancer hospital in central Cairo, killing at least 20 people, the Interior Ministry has said.

Authorities had initially said the deaths were caused by a multi-vehicle accident on Sunday night on the busy Corniche boulevard along the Nile River, with no explanation of how it caused an explosion that damaged the hospital’s facade and even rooms inside.

But later on Monday, the ministry acknowledged that a car bomb was involved.

It accused a militant group known as Hasm, which has links to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, saying it was moving the car – stolen in the Nile Delta – to carry out an attack elsewhere.

People survey the aftermath of a car crash outside the National Cancer Institute in Cairo, Egypt
People survey the aftermath of the incident outside the National Cancer Institute in Cairo (Maya Alleruzzo/AP)

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi called it a “terrorist incident” in a tweet, expressing condolences for the dead and vowing to “face and root out terrorism”.

The explosion injured 47 others, some of them with burns and broken bones, the Health Ministry said.

It did not say if any hospital patients or staff were among the casualties.

At least 78 patients were evacuated to other hospitals.

The blast damaged the cancer hospital’s main gate and several patient rooms and wards, according to a statement from Cairo University, whose medical school uses the institution as an educational facility.

Windows and glass doors on the hospital building were shattered.

“Parts of the ceiling of the hospital were collapsing as I got out of my room,” said patient Mahmoud el-Sayed.

“People were running everywhere and shouting.”

Multiple vehicles on the street were damaged, burning those inside, said another witness, Mohamed Ashraf.

People survey the aftermath of a car crash outside the National Cancer Institute in Cairo, Egypt
People at the scene of the incident (Maya Alleruzzo/AP)

In its initial account of the explosion, the Interior Ministry said a vehicle was driving against traffic on the boulevard and collided with up to three other cars, causing an explosion.

It did not elaborate when it later announced the car bomb, and it was not clear which vehicle was the one with explosives.

The police quickly cordoned off the area of the crash as prosecutors began an investigation.

The hospital is close to Cairo’s Tahrir Square, which became known internationally as the scene of mass protests in the 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

After the blast, some patients with appointments were left stranded, waiting outside the hospital with their relatives.

Ahmed Ramadan, a farmer, had brought his daughter from their home 145 kilometres (90 miles) south of Cairo for chemotherapy.

“We do not know where to go,” he said.

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