CAIRO — Egypt deployed heavy security forces across Cairo on Tuesday amid preparations for the burial of the country's prosecutor general, killed in a car bombing the day before in the first assassination of a top Egyptian official in a quarter century.
The body of Hisham Barakat, the top judicial official in charge of overseeing the prosecution of thousands of Islamists, including former President Mohammed Morsi, has been moved from the hospital to a mosque in the eastern suburb of Heliopolis for a funeral after noon prayers.
Armored personnel carriers were positioned across the city, and additional checkpoints were set up. At the hospital in Heliopolis, mourners came to express condolences to Barakat's widow.
Authorities on Monday declared June 30 — the second anniversary of mass street protests that led to Morsi's ouster by the military — a national holiday, but also cancelled all official celebrations in a sign of mourning for Barakat.
Television replayed footage of the blast and its aftermath, as well as funeral preparations at the Tantawi Mosque — a newly built house of worship dedicated to the retired field marshal who ran Egypt under a military council in the year between the ouster of longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and Morsi's election. Newspapers ran front page photos of Barakat's motorcade in flames.
Following Morsi's overthrow in 2013 by then-army chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, a long running insurgency by Islamic militants in the Sinai Peninsula surged dramatically, with regular attacks on police and military forces killing hundreds. Attacks also targeted army and police forces elsewhere across the country, and one main extremist group has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group and says it wants to expand elsewhere in Egypt.
Authorities have blamed the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi hails, for much of the militancy and have launched a massive crackdown on the Islamists. Amid the crackdown, security forces have killed hundreds and detained tens of thousands, while el-Sissi went on to win election as president last year.
Violence continued even as Egypt prepared for Barakat's funeral. In the northern Sinai city of Sheikh Zuweyid, a mortar shell allegedly fired by extremists at an army position fell on a private residence, killing two children and wounding three others, family members said. And in the city of Beni Suef along the Nile River south of Cairo, security officials said gunmen opened fire on a police car, killing a sergeant and wounding four others.
The family members spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions, while the security officials did the same because they were not authorized to brief journalists.