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Bombings rock Cairo, kill at least 5

CAIRO -- A string of bombings hit police around Cairo on Friday, including a suicide car blast that ripped through the city's main police headquarters and wrecked a nearby museum of Islamic artifacts. Five people were killed in the most significant attack yet in the Egyptian capital at a time of mounting confrontation between Islamists and the military-backed government.

The blasts further hike tensions a day before the third anniversary of Egypt's 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak — when supporters of the military and their Islamist opponents have each vowed rival rallies in the streets to press their cause.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Friday's morning attacks. Islamic militants have increasingly targeted police and the military since the July 3 coup against Mohammed Morsi and the ensuing crackdown by security forces against his Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist supporters that has arrested thousands.

Authorities have branded the Brotherhood a terrorist group, accusing it of involvement in the militant violence. The Brotherhood has denied any link. But the branding has helped fuel a wave of popular sentiment against the group and in favor of the military.

Islamists are trying to use Saturday's anniversary to build momentum in their campaign of protests to “break the coup.” Military supporters, in turn, aim to show broad popular support for the government and military chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the man who ousted Morsi.

Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim, who is in charge of police, called the bombings a “vile terrorist act” aimed at spreading panic ahead of Saturday's pro-military rallies. “But people will only increasingly insist ... and join the masses in millions” on Saturday, he told reporters at the site of the bombed police headquarters.

The office of interim President Adly Mansour vowed in a statement after the attack that it is determined to “uproot terrorism” and said it could be forced to take “exceptional measures.” It did not elaborate.

On its Twitter account, the Muslim Brotherhood posted a message in English condemning the “cowardly bombings in Cairo, express condolence to families of those killed and demand swift investigation.” There was no similar one in Arabic.

Friday's violence began around 6:30 a.m. when a suicide car bomber blasted the capital's main police headquarters in a downtown square, killing at least four people and sending billows of black smoke into the sky. The Health Ministry said in a statement that four policemen were killed and nearly 50 people wounded.

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An Egyptian firefighter checks a crater made by a blast at the Egyptian police headquarters in downtown Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Jan. 24. (AP)

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