Gunmen Kill One, Wound Six in Attack on Movie Theaters
HELWAN, Egypt (AP) _ Amid reports of a government crackdown on Islamic militants, gunmen threw dynamite and fired automatic weapons at side-by-side movie theaters, killing a policeman and injuring at least six people.
Officials blamed the attack on Islamic extremists, who have waged a violent campaign for nearly two years to unseat Egypt’s largely secular government.
The Interior Ministry said the incident occurred late Thursday in Helwan, about 15 miles south of Cairo. A film had just ended, and most of the audience had left, witnesses said.
The government-owned Middle East News Agency and official Egyptian television later said that two alleged assailants were arrested. They said one, a member of the extremist Jihad, or Holy War group, was wounded and hospitalized. They did not say how he was injured.
The Interior Ministry refused to comment on the report.
Eight men attacked, four of them with automatic weapons, said Ali Taha Ali, who runs a projector. Two of the men threw sticks of dynamite, one at each theater, before escaping in a car.
People screamed and ran for cover, said another theater worker, Iman Taher. ″All the glass in front of the theaters and in the ticket booth was shattered,″ he said.
Interior Minister Hassan el-Alfy, injured by Muslim extremists in an August bombing, visited the victims at Helwan General Hospital.
″Firing randomly in this cowardly way shows that these groups have reached a level of despair after the strong campaign by the police during the past few days,″ he said in a statement.
There have been reports, so far unconfirmed by the government, that 1,200 suspected extremists were arrested throughout Egypt during the past week.
Police announced Wednesday that they had arrested 15 men suspected of membership in the outlawed Jihad, a revival of the group that killed President Anwar Sadat in 1981. All were charged with plotting attacks against government ministers.
More than 240 people, including militants shot by police, have been killed during the anti-government campaign.