Gunmen kill tourists in Cairo attack




Six Germans and four others die as bus is fire-bombed and machine-gunned

By Mark Huband in Cairo

Financial Times, 19 September 1997

Gunmen killed 10 people, including six German tourists, in the heart of the Egyptian capital Cairo yesterday when they hurled a petrol bomb at a bus before attacking it with machine gun fire outside the city’s national museum..

The Germans and four other dead were confirmed dead by the German and Egyptian governments.

The Germans were among a group of 33 tourists, the rest of whom were inside the Egyptian Museum on Tahrir Square when the gunmen struck. Eight other Germans were among 11 people injured in the shooting.

Armed tourist police guarding the museum, which houses Egypt’s pharaonic antiquities, opened fire on the gunmen from close to a second bus, which was left riddled with bullets and scarred by fire.

The killings will reinforce the view of Egyptian government hardliners that tough security measures should be maintained, partly to minimise harm to the tourist trade. Tourism earned $3bn in foreign exchange in 1995-96, and is projected to reach $ 3.7bn in the current year.

Since 1995 tourism has been steadily recovering from the sharp downturn after the previous three years of violence. The number of visitors in 1996 reached 3.9m, government figures show.

Following last April’s killings, the industry did not appear to have suffered. The interior ministry named three of yesterday’s alleged attackers. Two are brothers, one of whom escaped from a Cairo psychiatric hospital three days ago. He had been confined to the hospital in 1993 after shooting dead four foreign businessmen at the Cairo Semiramis Intercontinental hotel.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for yesterday’s attack. It came two months after the jailed leaders of the militant Gama’a Islamiyya organisation called on their armed followers to observe a unilateral truce in their five-year armed campaign against the Egyptian security forces in which more than 1,000 people have died.

The government rejected the call as a ploy to ease pressure on the militant organisations while they reorganised their military strategy. The attack is the first directed against foreigners in 18 months and brings the number of tourists killed in five years of attacks in Egypt to 32.

In April 1996, 18 Greek tourists were killed at the entrance to a Cairo hotel after being mistaken for Israelis. The Gama’a Islamiyya claimed responsibility for that attack, saying it was in response to an onslaught by Israeli forces in Lebanon which had left scores of Lebanese dead.

© Financial Times