Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Terrorist Attack on Karnak

Reminiscent of the terrible day in 1997 when jihadist militants attacked a group of foreign tourists visiting the Temple of Hatshepsut opposite Luxor, killing 62 people (among them three local policemen and tour guide), now the temple of Karnak over the river has been targeted.

Three men planned a suicide bomb attack there mid-morning on Wednesday, aiming no doubt to disrupt the country's revenue-creating tourist industry as it slowly recovers from the aftermath of the changes in government which have taken place in the last few years:
A suicide bomber has been killed in an attack targeting the ancient Karnak temple in the southern Egyptian city of Luxor, officials have said. Another attacker was shot dead by authorities during the attack on Wednesday, while a third was arrested, officials said, adding that a police officer was injured. Officials said no civilians were injured in the attack. [...] Officials said police have foiled two other suicide attacks also targeting the Nile-side temple [...].
Source: Al Jazeera, 'Suicide bomber targets ancient temple in Egypt's Luxor' June 10th 2015. The BBC gives a variant version (''Suicide attack' at Karnak temple site in Egypt's Luxor')
Local media reported that three assailants were killed in the attack and that four bystanders were injured. The assailants reportedly tried to storm a barricade at the temple, one of Egypt's most popular tourist sites. Two of the attackers are believed to have been shot dead by police, but a third passed through barricade and detonated an explosive device. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but jihadist militants have killed hundreds of security forces and government personnel since the military overthrew President Mohammed Morsi in 2013.
Both accounts remind us that last week, two members of Egypt's tourism and antiquities police force were shot dead on a road near the pyramids at Giza, suggesting the sort of dangers faced by those tasked with guarding sites in the country. Foreign collectors and dealers, instead of exercising proper due diligence about what they buy, want the source countries like Egypt to put more men in danger to guard sites. But callous dealers do not care to think of the human cost of such demands, merely their own convenience and profits.

UPDATE 10th June 2015

Information from a friend of a friend in Luxor:
It seems the attackers were from the Delta, according to the latest reports. "Numbers of visitors to Karnak temple today was 564 tourists and 55 Egyptians. After the explosion, the bags of the terrorists were searched and a number of 8 grenades, 2 mobile phones, explosive belt, 2 machine guns and 116 bullets were found."
UPDATE UPDATE 11th June 2015

More details are emerging and photos of two dead bodies in the car park outside the Temple near some of the souvenir stands there.
The incident unfolded after a taxi carrying two passengers attempted to enter the parking lot and was stopped by a suspicious policeman, Tourism Minister Khaled Ramy said in a statement. Police asked to search the trunk, where they found two large bags that made them suspicious, a general from Luxor police told AFP. When they asked to open the bags, one of the men jumped out of the car, ran away and detonated his explosive vest. In the ensuing confusion, the other passenger emerged from the car and, joined by an accomplice who had come in on foot, pulled assault rifles from the bags and started shooting. The police responded, killing one and seriously wounding the other. Health ministry official Nahed Mohamed told AFP two civilians and two policemen were wounded in the shootout, but not seriously. Police said the taxi driver was not a suspect. "If they had managed to enter the temple, it would have been a massacre," said the general, as 19 fully loaded magazines for the rifles were found in the bags and there were 604 tourists were in the temple. 
The Egyptian authorities announced that they were tightening security at major tourist attractions.
Source: Anon. 'Two attackers killed as Egypt police foil suicide bombing, shooting at famed Luxor temple', Firstpost Jun 11, 2015

Vignette: actually Medinet Habu the other side of the river (Zack and Miyuki Davisson, the 'last tourists in Egypt').

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