Luxor was the recent target of suicide bombers on Wednesday, June 10, and police were lucky to have thwarted an attack at an ancient Egyptian temple. Reports say three men approached the entrance to the Temple of Karknak, Luxor; one of whom was wearing an explosive belt. The belt was detonated when police confronted them, leaving one dead and another injured. Police were forced to shoot the third assailant, and a car used by the attackers is also said to have exploded. Luckily, the attacks caused no further fatalities, but two civilians and two members of the attending police force were injured in the explosion.
The Temple of Karnak is one of Luxor’s most popular tourist attractions, with millions of foreign travelers visiting the site every year. As a vast complex of ancient ruins, the 100 hectares on the banks of the Nile River are host to a number of impressive temples, pillars and religious buildings still standing from as early as 3200 B.C. Second in popularity only to the Pyramids of Giza in Cairo, Luxor has seen a downturn in its tourism trade over recent years due to the violent revolution against President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, and the overthrowing of Mohammed Morsi by the military in 2013. Those in the industry have seen an improvement in recent months, however, and the number of people visiting Egypt has increased. Khaled Ramy, Egypt’s Tourist Minister, told reporters that he expected the steady incline in tourism to continue, despite the recent attack.
Current Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi vowed to improve security around Luxor following the targeting of the ancient Egyptian temple. In a statement released by the presidency, el-Sisi praised the actions of the police in averting what could have been a much greater disaster. Wednesday’s attack is not the the first that Egyptian government officials have had to deal with this week. On June 3, two police officers were killed near the famous Pyramids of Giza when a gunman opened fire while speeding by on a motorcycle. Although no one has taken responsibility for either attack, members of the Associated Press have identified similarities with Islamist extremists who have been challenging authorities in the Sinai Peninsula for years. Such groups have recently declared their allegiance with the ISIS terrorist organization, who are responsible for numerous attacks on ancient sites across Iraq and Syria in an attempt to limit revenue and economic recovery for the holding governments.
Extremist group Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, or “Supporters of the Holy House,” have been targeting el-Sisi and his military since the new president took control in June 2014, with attacks on government buildings as well as large commercial holdings and those essential to infrastructure, such as power stations. They are known to have bombed the gas pipelines between Egypt and Israel on numerous occasions. Born during the 2011 revolution, ISIS loyalists Ansar Bait al-Maqdis are not known to have been behind the suicide bombers who targeted the ancient temple in Luxor, nor are they known for attacks on tourist sites or antiquities, but with their determination to overthrow Egypt’s current government, officials are not ruling out their involvement or that of their conspirators.
By Alison Klippenstein
BBC: Suicide attack outside Karnak temple in Egypt’s Luxor
Independent: Egypt terror attack: Suicide bomber targets ancient Temple of Karnak popular with tourists
Fox News: Egyptian president moves to boost security after attack on ancient temple
New York Times: Militants Hit Karnak Temple, in 2nd Recent Attack on Egyptian Tourist Sites
Photo Courtesy of Andrea Pravettoni’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
In Line Photo Courtesy of GovernmentZA’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License