Cairo, Red Sea attacks deal new blows to Egypt

Image: Police and security are ramped up outside a hotel where two attackers opened fire in the Egyptian Red Sea resort town of Hurghada, Egypt, January 8, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer


By Ahmed Mohamed Hassan

CAIRO (Reuters) – Armed men shot dead a police officer and a soldier in their car on the outskirts of Cairo on Saturday, Egypt’s state news agency said, a day after suspected militants armed with knives wounded three European tourists in a Red Sea resort.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the Cairo attack in a statement posted on messaging service Telegram.

Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou said the government would announce additional security measures to safeguard tourists after Friday’s attack, which wounded two Austrians and a Swede in the resort of Hurghada.

Tourism is critical to the Egyptian economy as a source of hard currency, but has been ravaged by years of political turmoil since the revolution that ousted veteran president Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

“The welfare of the tourists visiting Egypt is of the greatest importance to us and will continue to be so. No stone will be left unturned to ensure their security,” Zaazou said.

“Over the coming days we will announce even greater security measures to safeguard all tourists visiting Egypt.”

Egypt is fighting a wave of Islamist militancy against security forces, which started in the remote regions of the Sinai but is increasingly spreading to the capital and to Red Sea beach targets that were previously considered safe.

Two armed assailants were involved in the attack at the beachside Bella Vista hotel in Hurghada. Security forces shot and killed at least one of the attackers, officials said.

The Interior Ministry said one of the attackers was a student from the Cairo suburb of Giza.
Security sources said the attackers had arrived by sea and also carried a gun and a suicide belt. Officials said officers had tightened checks across the area and shut off roads.

Swedish survivor Sam Eric Olovsson told reporters from his hospital bed: “He sliced me here in the neck and then he shoved his knife here and I go to the ground. At that point, I’m saying to my father I think I will bleed to death right now.”

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian passenger plane in October, killing all 224 people on board, most of them tourists returning home from the Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Sheikh, across the water from Hurghada.

The group said on Friday it had carried out an attack on Israeli tourists in Cairo a day earlier, in response to a call by its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, to target Jews “everywhere”.
Security sources said the tourists were Israeli Arabs, and that there were no casualties.

(Additional reporting by Ali Abdelaty and Michael Georgy; Terje Solsvik in Oslo and Alistair Scrutton in Stockholm; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Mark Trevelyan)

Copyright 2015 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.

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