Egypt probes attack on hotel in Red Sea resort town of Hurghada

Friday 08/01/2016
Incident threatens efforts to repair damaged tourism industry

CAIRO - Egypt's tourism minister was to visit on Saturday victims of an attack at a Red Sea resort hotel by knife-wielding assailants, as police investigated the latest blow to the country's tourism industry.
Hisham Zazou, who was expected to arrive in Hurghada in the afternoon, said that a probe was still ongoing into Friday's attack, in which two Austrians and a Swede were wounded.
The health ministry said they suffered knife wounds and were in stable condition. It was the second attack in as many days against an Egyptian hotel.
Police shot dead one of the assailants and badly wounded the other, after they targeted the tourists in the beachfront Bella Vista hotel.
The interior ministry said the assailants entered the hotel from a restaurant on the street front.
A video published by Egyptian news websites appeared to show the wounded assailant receiving emergency medical treatment and being questioned on his identity.
He appears to have been shot in both legs.
Zazou described the assailants as "amateurish" and said their motive was not yet clear.
"If someone wants to claim that this is part of a terrorist group, it is a bit amateurish for that," the minister said.
"They used only knives. If someone wants to attempt really to create a terrible incident, he would not be using a knife."
The incident further threatened efforts to repair the country's damaged tourism industry, coming a day after a Cairo hotel hosting Israeli tourists came under attack by men who hurled fireworks and fired birdshot.
The Islamic State group claimed credit for that attack, which they said targeted "Jewish" tourists.
Police said they were Arab-Israeli tourists, and the assailants had targeted policemen outside the hotel and not the tourists.
The extremist group's Egypt affiliate is waging an insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula, and dealt a body blow to the country's tourism industry by claiming to have downed a Russian airliner in October, killing all the holidaymakers on board.
The attack prompted Russia to suspend flights to and from Egypt, while Britain restricted flights to the Sharm el-Sheikh resort from where the doomed plane had departed.
The Islamic State group said it had downed the plane by smuggling a bomb on board in the Sharm el-Sheikh airport.
Egypt has yet to confirm that jihadists brought down the plane, although Russia said explosive traces were found in the wreckage.
After the Russian plane tragedy, some major tourist operators suspended packages to Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada.
The resorts, which Egypt promoted as jewels of its tourism industry, had previously attracted millions of holidaymakers, including Russians, Britons and Italians, and are famed for their pristine beaches and scuba diving.
The country's tourism industry was dealt several blows in 2015.
In September, eight Mexican tourists were mistakenly killed by Egyptian security forces in the vast Western Desert.
Survivors said the attack was staged by a plane and a helicopter.
An Egyptian probe into the attack criticised the travel agency for taking the group to a dangerous area, Mexico's foreign minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu said on Wednesday.
And in June, police foiled an attempted suicide bomb attack near the famed Karnak temple in Luxor -- one of Egypt's most popular heritage attractions -- when 600 tourists were inside.
Nine Egyptians were sentenced in November to life in prison for their involvement in the failed attack, while two others were jailed for seven years.