One terrorism suspect was killed and five others arrested by police forces on Thursday after a gun battle in the deceased man’s apartment in Nasr City, east of Cairo, said security sources. The confrontation led to a bomb being detonated, setting fire to the entire building.
According to investigations, the deceased was Karim al-Azizi, a Libyan citizen suspected of involvement in last month’s assassination of the US ambassador to Libya.
The flat where Aziz was killed was used to store weapons used by members of a terrorist cell, allege Egyptian investigators. Security sources said they found 17 bombs, four RPGs, three automatic weapons and huge quantities of ammunition inside.
The Supreme State Security Prosecution decided to detain the five suspects for 15 days pending investigations into charges of terrorism and planning to commit terrorist acts in the country.
Local residents told Al-Masry Al-Youm that during the raid, Azizi threw a bomb at the police forces, but it bounced back into the apartment causing the building to burn down.
Residents of the building said that Azizi had started living in the apartment seven months ago. He lived alone, would typically return home late and would be visited by a few people.
One local resident, Mohamed Abdel Hamid, 28, said he was awoken by the sound of the bomb and found a huge number of policemen in the street, who prevented the building residents to leave out of fear that the suspects would escape.
As flames rose following the detonation of the bomb, people tried to get out of the building, some even throwing themselves out of windows onto blankets and mattresses that were placed on the ground for them to jump on, Abdel Hamid added.
Twenty four-year-old Nora Fawzi, who lives on the first floor of the building, said, “After the neighbors saved my family, the stairs collapsed after the explosion and flames rose from inside the apartment of the suspect. That prompted me to return to my apartment again and throw myself from the first floor after I got frightened and felt like I was inevitably going to die. People put blankets on the floor and I jumped from the first floor.”
Amir Mahmoud, who lives in the building across the street, said that after the fire neighborhood officials came to inspect the damage caused to the building.
He added that following the inspection they would grant each resident a LE1,000 in compensation, and the neighborhood would repair the damage caused to the building.
In Mahmoud’s opinion, “The police managed the incident poorly, especially since the security services already had information about the defendant and the cell to which he belongs.”
Samar Nasser, another resident, said the civil defense forces came to put out the fire before it moved to the adjacent buildings, shutting down the gas line and cutting the electricity to help prevent its spread.
Witnesses say neighborhood youth formed rescue teams, bringing long iron ladders and placing them outside the building to help the trapped residents escape their apartments.
Three others suspected of belonging to a terrorist cell have also been arrested in Gharbiya and Alexandria. Sources say the suspects were in possession of firearms, and are currently being interrogated.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm