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Suicide Bombing at Egyptian Tourist Site Marks Troubling Turn in Country's Instability


"Visited by millions of tourists every year"

Karnak Temple, Luxor, Egypt (Image Credit: Seb Oliver/Getty Images)

LUXOR, Egypt (TheBlaze/AP) - A suicide bombing at the temple of Karnak in the southern Egyptian city of Luxor on Wednesday marks a troubling turn amid the instability in Egypt, as Islamic militants seemingly shift their focus to civilian targets.

Reports say a suicide bomber blew himself up just steps from the temple, which is visited by millions of tourists every year. Police shot dead one of two suspected militants who arrived with the bomber, and the third militant was wounded and is in police custody.

Though the only people killed were the attackers, the New York Times writes that "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."

The last time Luxor saw such a significant attack was in November 1997, when Islamic militants opened fire on tourists at the city's 3,400-year-old Hatshepsut Temple on the west bank of the Nile, killing 58.

Karnak Temple, Luxor, Egypt (Image Credit: Seb Oliver/Getty Images)

Wednesday's attack is the second this month at or near a major tourist attraction. On June 3, gunmen opened fire near the pyramids at Giza, killing two police officers.

Egypt's tourism industry has suffered since the revolution that overthrew Hosni Mubarak in 2011, and international organizations are already responding to the latest attack.

German tour operator TUI Deutschland says it has canceled all excursions to Luxor for the time being, and TUI's spokeswoman Anja Braun says further measures would depend on guidance issued by the German foreign ministry.

The explosion left large parts of the temple's parking lot covered in debris, but the temples are undamaged.

Luxor governor Badr offered a slightly different version of how the attack unfolded, saying three men carrying bags got out of a car in the temple's parking lot, which immediately made the police suspicious. When police asked them to stop, one of the three then began running. Police fired at him and an explosive belt he was wearing blew up. A firefight then began between the other two men and policemen, killing one of the attackers and wounding the second.

Badr said the nationalities of the three men have not yet been determined. Though his account and that of the security officials could not immediately be reconciled, that is common in the immediate aftermath of major attacks.

The Associated Press writes that Wednesday's attack bore all the hallmarks of Islamic militants who have been battling security forces in the strategic Sinai Peninsula for years. Last year, the Sinai-based insurgent group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, which has destroyed famed archaeological sites in Syria and Iraq, viewing them as idolatrous.

The campaign of violence in Sinai accelerated and spread to other parts of Egypt following the 2013 military overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, with militants saying the attacks are in revenge for a massive crackdown on Islamists underway in Egypt.


Associated Press writers Maggie Michael and Sarah El Deeb contributed to this report from Cairo.

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