Cairo, Egypt U.S. Embassy

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Man With Explosive Arrested Outside U.S. Embassy In Cairo

September 04, 2018 - 1:09 pm

CAIRO (WCBS 880/CBS News) -- A man carrying an explosive device was arrested outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo on Tuesday.

The embassy briefly warned American nationals to avoid the compound in Egypt's capital city after police arrested the man, who was carrying a device near the heavily fortified compound. 

Reuters Correspondent Joel Labi was there when it happened.

“I was actually coming out of the building known as the Mogamma, which is the government’s central headquarters in Tahrir Square – which is actually the site of the Arab Spring uprising here in Egypt back in 2011-2012. So just around the corner we saw some white smoke billowing up from the street, and it was coming from where the U.S. embassy is located,” Labi told WCBS 880’s Pat Farnack. “As you can imagine, within a few minutes of that, few people actually knew what was going on. But the streets were on lockdown, traffic started to bank up very quickly.”

But eyewitness accounts later indicated there had been an explosion. It did not happen on the grounds of the embassy, but on “just on the outer extremity near a very large, very large area of cinder blocks and bollards,” Labi said.

Egypt's Interior Ministry released a statement identifying the suspect name as Abdallah Ayman Abd El Sameei, 24, and saying he was arrested after a bag he was carrying containing chemicals in a bottle caught on fire. Their initial investigation suggested El Sameei had "adopted extremist ideologies," according to the statement.

The ministry confirmed that no one was injured in the incident, said El Sameei had been referred to the public prosecutor's office. 

The U.S. embassy said in a statement on its official Facebook account as the news broke that "U.S. Citizens should not come to the Embassy at this time."

The Associated Press quoted law enforcement sources as saying the suspect was intercepted outside the concrete blast barriers that encircle the U.S. and nearby British embassies in Cairo's the Garden City.

Not long after news of the scare broke, the embassy sent another tweet saying normal business had resumed and that Egyptian police had finished their investigation.

Unconfirmed video from a surveillance camera surfaced on social media, appearing to show the man walking toward the embassy perimeter carrying a backpack and something in his hand before he disappears in a large puff of smoke. Moments later security officials are seen rushing to the spot. 

Other videos show man being taken into custody by police. CBS News has been unable to verify the authenticity of the social media videos, but they match accounts from witnesses and reports on Egyptian media.

(© 2018 WCBS 880. CBS News contributed to this report.)