Militants Hit Karnak Temple, in 2nd Attack on Egyptian Tourist Sites

Militants set off an explosion near the Karnak temple in Luxor on Wednesday, the second assault in about a week targeting ancient antiquities at Egyptian tourist sites, suggesting an ominous turn in a two-year-old campaign of violence against the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who announced the military ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi
Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who announced the military ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi

Attacks had previously focused mainly on the Egyptian security forces that supported Mr. Sisi in his ouster of President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood almost two years ago. But the quick succession of recent attacks on antiquities suggests that militants may also now be targeting the tourism industry — a pillar of the Egyptian economy — in a possible reversion to the tactics of the Islamist insurgency that flared here in the 1990s.

Security officials said on Wednesday that the explosion in Luxor, about 400 miles south of Cairo, came from an attacker wearing a suicide vest. Officials said the police had exchanged gunfire with the attackers, killing two militants and wounding a third. A police officer was also hurt, the officials said, but there was no damage to the temple or other antiquities. Later, Health Ministry officials said another person might have been injured.

The attack came just a week after gunmen on a motorcycle shot and killedtwo tourism police officers near the gate of the complex that contains the pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx, across the Nile from Cairo.

For the first 18 months after the takeover that brought Mr. Sisi to power, militant attacks almost exclusively targeted military and police personnel, leaving hundreds dead. The militant group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, based in the North Sinai, claimed responsibility for most of the violence and last fall it pledged its loyalty to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

The shootings and small bombs then began to target businesses and critical infrastructure like electrical power stations in Cairo, Alexandria and elsewhere, causing some civilian casualties but mainly seeking to damage the economy.

Shadowy new groups with names like Revolutionary Punishment and the Popular Resistance Movement began claiming responsibility for many of the attacks, but they tapered off in March after the militants failed to disrupt a high-profile economic development conference in Sharm el Sheikh that Mr. Sisi had hosted.

The most recent attacks raise the possibility that at least some militants may now be turning to the tourism sector for an alternative strategy to impair any economic recovery and destabilize the government.

Egypt depends on a steady flow of tourists as a major source of hard currency, and the past four years of unrest have taken a heavy toll on the economy, mainly because of their effects on the tourism industry. Just a few successful attacks or bombings can scare tourists away and cripple the industry.

Newyork Times

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