Over on the front page, Sharona reports on the appointment of Egyptian Adel al-Khayyat as governor of Luxor, chosen by President Mohammed Morsi on Sunday. As she notes, al-Khayyat is a member of Gama Islamiya, a recognized terrorist organization responsible for an attack that killed 62 people, including 58 tourists, in 1997. Here’s a bit more background info important to note…
The 1997 terror attack took place at the ancient Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, a popular tourist attraction and important relic of Egyptian history dating back thousands of years:
Now, personally, I think the term “terrorism” is thrown around a lot nowadays — too much. Tea Partiers have been derided by political opponents as “terrorists.” The IRS has even been labeled a “terrorist organization.” But when the news reports that Adel al-Khayyat is a member of a “terrorist” organization, there should be no such confusion.
On the morning of November 17, 1997, six armed men from al-Khayyat’s Gama Islamiya posed as security personnel at the Temple of Hatshepsut. As you can see from the photo above, the temple has only one point of entry/exit. The men, armed with automatic guns and knives, waited for a large group to enter the temple before massacring the trapped tourists between shouts of ”Allah u Akbar!” For those who managed to escape from the carnage inside the temple, the terrorists positioned gunmen outside to pick them off one-by-one.
The indiscriminate killing went on for 45 minutes. During that time the killers mutilated many of the victims’ bodies with machetes, especially women. According to the BBC, a note praising Islam was found inside one disemboweled body. The victims included a 5-year-old British child and several Japanese couples on their honeymoons.
The massacre at Luxor was the bloodiest terrorist attack Egypt had ever witnessed, and the most significant since religious fanatics killed Anwar Sadat 16 years earlier — another attack on Egypt Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya has been linked to. When public outraged turned against the terrorists, the group deflected responsibility and blamed Egyptian police and Israel.
Throughout the 1990s, the group was responsible for several violent attacks which killed more 1,200 people between 1992 and 1997. Among these attacks were the murders of Major General Raouf Khayrat, Egypt’s head of counter-terrorism; Rifaat el-Mahgoub, Egypt’s speaker of parliament; as well as dozens of Egyptian tourists and more than 100 Egyptian police officers. In addition, the group claimed responsibility for an armed attack at a Cairo hotel which left 18 Greek tourists dead because they “looked like” Jews.
With the help of al-Qaeda’s Mustafa Hamza, the group also planned an assassination attempt on Hosni Mubarak in 1995 and Osama bin Laden’s No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, announced an official al-Qaeda alliance with the group in 2006.
Omar Abdel-Rahman — a.k.a. the Blind Sheikh — has been the group’s spiritual leader and Gama Islamiya has repeatedly threatened to carry out terrorist attacks against America until the convicted 1993 World Trade Center bombing conspirator is released.
Tourism, Egypt’s chief industry, collapsed following the 1997 and the country struggled to rebuild its economy while simultaneously cracking down on terrorism. Since the dawn of the so-called “Arab Spring” and return of the once-banished Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, much has been sad about ousted Hosni Mubarak and corruption within his administration. This corruption should not overshadow Mubarak’s significant work against Islamic fundamentalism and diplomacy with neighboring Israel. If the terrorists are trying to kill you with noxious gases, you’re probably doing something right, no?
It’s in this context that the appointment of Adel al-Khayyat is so pivotal and, quite frankly, “boneheaded.” Khayyat and his Gama Islamiya despise tourists. Another orchestrated attack on foreigners on Egyptian soil threatens to hurl the nation’s economy back into recession and such an unstable, electrically charged and chaotic environment is every jihadi’s dream.