Four of the deaths were reported at the security headquarters, where the powerful early-morning explosion sheared off the building’s facade, shattered windows over a wide radius and damaged a museum building directly across the street.
About three hours later, a second blast went off near a metro station a few miles away, killing one person, according to the Health Ministry. Shortly after that, a third explosion was reported near a police substation, with no immediate reports of casualties.
[Updated, 8:05 a.m. PST Jan. 24: Security forces later confirmed that a fourth bomb had exploded on a road in the capital as a police convoy passed by, killing one person.]
The timing of the attacks was symbolic, coming on the eve of a holiday hailing the police. Saturday also marks the third anniversary of the start of the uprising centered in Tahrir Square, which drove Hosni Mubarak from power. In advance of the commemorations, the Interior Ministry, which oversees the police, said any unrest would be dealt with harshly.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Friday’s explosions, but the interim government has consistently blamed the Muslim Brotherhood, the movement of deposed President Mohamed Morsi, for such attacks, even when another group claims responsibility. The Brotherhood has been branded a terrorist organization by the government.
Angry onlookers gathered in front of the police headquarters, some shouting slogans against Morsi and in favor of army chief Gen. Abdel Fattah Sisi, who is expected to disclose soon whether he will run for president.
Friday is the main Muslim prayer day and a weekend day in Egypt, so few passersby were on the streets when the first bomb went off before 7 a.m. local time, and the fatalities were thought to be mostly police on duty at the headquarters. But more people were out and about when the second and third blasts hit at midmorning.
Attacks against the security forces are common in the restive Sinai Peninsula but relatively rare in major Egyptian cities. A bombing last month at a security headquarters in the northern city of Mansoura killed at least 15 people.
Hassan is a special correspondent.