Gunmen kill 57 tourists in Egypt




Luxor massacre leaves 24 injured after two buses are ambushed on route to ruins

By Mark Huband in Cairo

Financial Times, 18 November 1997

Egypt’s government was last night in shock after 57 foreign tourists were massacred in a three-hour attack by up to 11 gunmen who ambushed two buses taking them to a ruined temple near the southern city of Luxor.

It was the worst single attack on foreigners since militant groups launched an armed campaign against the government in 1992.

Four Egyptians are also thought to have been killed. Early reports said that at least two British nationals had died and five more were missing.

Interior ministry officials said the gunmen lay in wait for the tourists in the ruins of the Deir al-Bahri temple. A bus full of Japanese tourists was hijacked by the gunmen, who then opened fire and killed all those inside.

A second bus carrying French and German tourists was then stopped and driven for a mile before all the passengers were slaughtered, the security forces said.

Official figures put the number of injured at 24, including 16 foreigners. Some of the injured are critical. All the gunmen were reported killed by police in a battle following the attacks.

“We are in shock. It was completely unforeseen and is very serious. The government is in shock, though the good thing is that all the attackers were themselves killed,” a senior government minister said yesterday.

President Hosni Mubarak and Hassan al-Alfi, the interior minister and architect of the hardline policy intended to eradicate the militant organisations, yesterday flew separately to Luxor, where a curfew has been imposed.

European fund managers were yesterday inundated by inquiries from investors concerned that the tourist high season would be destroyed by the attack.

Government figures released yesterday show 3.5m people have visited Egypt so far this year, up from 3.2m in 1996. Income from tourism reached $3bn in 1995-96, and before the massacre had been expected to reach $3.7bn this year. Bankers and fund managers see the economic impact of single attacks as limited. A leading Cairo fund manager said yesterday: “It might affect tourism for the short run, but I don’t think it affects the fundamentals of the country.”

The Foreign Office advised tourists to stay out of Luxor, and the Nordic region’s main travel agent for Egypt said it had cancelled all trips and was bringing back customers.

The attack comes six months after the Gama’a al-Islamiyya, Egypt’s main armed militant organisation, declared a unilateral truce in its five-year conflict with the government. Before yesterday’s attack, 34 foreigners and 1,100 Egyptians had been killed. No group has claimed responsibility.

© Financial Times