by sarah el deeb associated press
A bomb exploded outside a military intelligence building northeast of Egypt's capital Sunday, wounding four people and damaging the structure as protests and security scares roil the country just weeks before a key vote.
The explosion in Anshas, a village in Sharqiya province, as violent student protests at a Cairo university and its branches played out on television channels across the country, only added to the turmoil and sense of public worry in Egypt following a July 3 popularly backed military coup that toppled the country's Islamist president.
The blast struck the military intelligence building in Anshas, a village 50 kilometers (30 miles) northeast of Cairo that is home to number of military facilities, including an air base and Egypt's first experimental nuclear reactor. Footage aired on Egyptian state television showed debris littering the ground and a large gash in one of its walls.
Military spokesman Ahmed Mohammed Ali said on his official Facebook page that the explosion damaged the back wall of the military intelligence office and wounded four soldiers guarding it. He said an investigation had begun to determine what caused the blast.
Sherif Makein, an emergency service official in the province, told the private television station ONTV that the soldiers weren't seriously wounded in the attack.
Security officials said investigators were trying to determine whether the blast was caused by a hand grenade or a car bomb. They spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak to journalists.
Ali said the blast was part of a series "of cowardly terrorist operations carried out by the forces of darkness and sedition against the people of Egypt, military installations and vital targets."
Such attacks have grown in frequency following the coup that ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. A Sinai-based militant group has claimed responsibility for a car bombing Tuesday at a Nile Delta security headquarters that killed 16, mostly police officers.
Fears have been rising that the monthslong violent campaign against troops increasingly will turn to civilians, particularly after a bomb went off near a public bus last week and authorities defused another Saturday found on a bus in Cairo.
Egypt's military-backed interim government recently blamed the Muslim Brotherhood, the group from which Morsi hails, for the attacks, labeling the group a terrorist organization. However, the government has provided no evidence linking the Brotherhood to the attacks. The group has been protesting Morsi's ouster, the military-backed authorities and its transitional plan.
Authorities have instead crackdown hard on the Brotherhood and Morsi supporters, particularly ahead of a Jan. 14-15 constitutional referendum they see as a milestone in the transition plan. Authorities fear Morsi supporters will try to derail the vote through protests or violence.
Students have been at the forefront of the Brotherhood protests. The Islamic University of Al-Azhar has seen some of the worst violence, with near-daily clashes between pro-Morsi students and security forces.
Clashes continued Sunday for the second straight day since the start of midterm exams, amid government claims that the students want to derail the academic year and halt exams. One student was killed in clashes Saturday and a main administration building was set on fire.
Students say they are organizing an exam boycott campaign to protest the arrest and killing of their colleagues. They deny starting the violence.
"They are trying to frighten us. ... They do not like that a large number of students are against the coup," student leader Youssof Salhen said.
On Sunday, riot police fired tear gas to disperse a group of pro-Morsi. Some students tore up their examination papers, while others threw rocks. Police arrested 27 students over the protests, security officials said.
The violence stopped those wanting to take exams from reaching classrooms. Tawfiq Nour el-Din, deputy dean of the university, told state television that alternative rooms will be prepared to ensure exams continue. Later Sunday, Egypt state news agency MENA reported that university security officials defused two homemade bombs planted on campus before they went off.
The tension extended to the university branch in the southern city of Assiut, where students closed the campus gates, preventing others from taking their tests. Security officials said students lobbed firebombs at one of the riot police vehicles deployed outside campus, setting it on fire. The students chased two soldiers out of the car, before forces deployed to provide them with protection, the officials said speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.
Meanwhile, state television also reported Sunday that passers-by found a homemade bomb outside the medical school of the Al-Azhar University branch in the Nile Delta city of Damietta. Gov. Mohammed Abdel-Latif told the broadcaster that the bomb was made from a can, ball bearings and electrical wiring.
Associated Press writers Ashraf Sweillam in el-Arish, Egypt; Mamdouh Thabet in Assiut, Egypt; and Mariam Rizk contributed to this report.