Egypt's affiliate of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group, known as Sinai Province, has claimed responsibility for an attack on the Italian consulate in Cairo, the SITE Intelligence Group has said.
"Soldiers of the Islamic State in Cairo were able to detonate a parked booby-trapped vehicle laden with 450kg of explosives at the headquarters of the Italian consulate," SITE reported, quoting ISIL on Twitter as saying on Saturday.
"We advise Muslims to stay away from these security dens, because they are legitimate targets for strikes of the mujahedeen," the ISIL statement said.
Health ministry spokesman Hossam Abdel Ghaffar said Saturday's blast killed a civilian and wounded nine people, including policemen and passers-by.
Responding to the attack, Ibrahim Mehlab, Egypt's prime minister, was quoted saying: "We are at war".
"The time has come for the world to unite in facing terrorism, which now threatens the entire world," Al-Ahram newspaper quoted him saying.
Egypt's state news agency, MENA, quoted a statement by the interior ministry on Saturday, confirming the explosive device was planted inside a car.
|Italian officials said the consulate was closed at the time of the explosion [The Associated Press]
Following the attack, Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said on his twitter account that there were no Italian casualties, adding that "Italy will not be intimidated".
Social media users posted photos they said were from Cairo showing heavy smoke in the city's skyline.
Egyptian journalist Omar Elhady published photos on his Twitter account, showing what he said was the damage inflicted on the consulate building in the Galaa street.
Four foreign journalist were being held by the police while trying to report from the scene, said Cairo-based journalist Alessandro Accorsi, who tweeted that he was one of them.
The blast ruptured underground water pipes, flooding the area.
Local Youm7 website posted the following footage showing the aftermath of the attack.
The explosion struck one of the busiest intersections in Cairo, a major artery that connects Ramsis Square to the heart of downtown Cairo.
Even before 7am on a weekend in the middle of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, the area around the blast would have been crowded with cars, pedestrians and mini-buses.
|The explosion struck one of the busiest intersections in Cairo, a major artery that connects Ramsis Square to the heart of the downtown [Ron Ludwig/Google Street View]
Hundreds of soldiers and policemen have been killed in attacks by armed groups in Egypt since the army deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.
Over the same period, at least 1,400 people, mostly supporters, have killed in a security crackdown on protests.
The deadliest attacks against the security forces have occurred in the Sinai Peninsula, most of them claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant group.
But Cairo and cities and towns in the Nile Delta have also been targeted in such attacks, which have left hundreds of soldiers and police dead.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies