Terrorists strike at Luxor
TUNIS - Militants set off a bomb in a taxi near a tourist site in Luxor, the second time in eight days jihadist groups targeted visitors at a historic location in Egypt.
Two men -- both suspected assailants -- died in the June 10th attack and four people, including two police officers, a civilian and a third alleged militant, were wounded.
Egyptian authorities said they were introducing new security measures to protect ancient sites. Karnak temple Director Mohammed Abdel-Aziz said after the attack that the monument “is safe and unaffected and visitors continue to arrive”. In fact, four groups visited the site after the attack, officials said.
However, it was the third attack on a tourist attraction in North Africa in the last several months. Three assailants opened fire at the Bardo Museum March 18th in Tunis, killing 20 tourists and two Tunisians. On June 3rd, two policemen were killed at the Giza pyramids outside Cairo in a drive-by shooting.
Action by security personnel limited the toll at the June 10th incident at the ancient Karnak temple in Luxor, a site visited by millions each year, by searching a taxi. One of the men in the vehicle set off a bomb, killing himself. Two other men fired at police. One of them was killed.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility but Egypt has a history of Islamic militants targeting foreign tourists since the 1990s. The deadliest attack occurred in Luxor in November 1997, when militants attacked tourists at the 3,400-year-old Hatshepsut temple, killing 58.
In 2005, bombs exploded in a hotel at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, killing 64 people, mainly tourists.
Last year, the main Sinai-based insurgent group, Ansar Beit al- Maqdis, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS). In Syria and Iraq, ISIS has destroyed archaeological artefacts, deeming them “idolatrous”.
The recent attacks on Luxor and Giza could mean a new focus by jihadists. Mathieu Guidere, French strategic expert, said the aim of the jihadists is “to weaken the Egyptian economy by destroying the tourism industry” and to have “the maximum media impact”.
The Luxor attack comes as tourism has been showing signs of recovery in Egypt. Before the 2011 uprising that toppled the regime of Hosni Mubarak, tourism annually accounted for about 20% of Egypt’s foreign currency revenues and attracted as many as 14.7 million tourists.
After 2011, the number of tourist arrivals dropped to 9.6 million. Tourists have slowly been returning and officials say tourism revenues rose to $4 billion in the first half of 2015, compared to $1.9 billion in the same period in 2014.
Egyptian Tourism Minister Khaled Ramy said he expects the industry’s slow recovery to continue despite the attack. “Security forces were there. It’s a very important message to everyone,” he said.