A suicide bomber struck one of Egypt’s most popular tourism sites in an attack that could signal a shift in strategy by militants looking to undercut government efforts to revive an economy battered by more than four years of unrest.
The bomber and another suspected militant were killed in the attack on the Temple of Karnak, in the southern city of Luxor, while another attacker suffered a gunshot wound to the head, the Tourism Ministry said in a statement. Security forces rebuffed the assault, and a policeman was wounded, the ministry said, adding that no tourists were hurt.
The attack, which comes days after a policeman was shot dead near the Giza Pyramids, appears to reflect an expansion of targets by militants who have so far focused on security forces. President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s government has killed hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters since the ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Mursi in 2013. Thousands more have been imprisoned in a crackdown that’s stocked a violent backlash.
“The suicide attack in Luxor could mark a pivotal point in the trajectory of terrorism in Egypt,” said Anthony Skinner, head of analysis for the Middle East and North Africa at U.K.- based forecasting company Verisk Maplecroft. It might mark “a shift in strategy” by militants “to target the tourism sector and frustrate government plans to propel economic growth” and boost foreign investment, he added.
Egypt’s benchmark EGX 30 Index of stocks further trimmed its gains after reports of the attack.
So far, there haven’t been any cancellations, “not even from tourists who are currently in Luxor,” Amani El-Torgoman, board member of the Egyptian Tourism Federation and chairwoman of a tour operator, said by phone. She said she didn’t expect the attack “to have an impact on tourism.”
The temple complex of Karnak, developed over decades by about 30 pharaohs, is one Egypt’s most important ancient attractions, second only to the pyramids at Giza in numbers of tourist visits.
Luxor is the site of a 1997 massacre of tourists at the height of Egypt’s battle against militants under then-President Hosni Mubarak. Tourism has been hit hard since Egypt’s 2011 uprising. Visitors declined to 9.9 million in 2014, compared with a peak of 14.7 million in 2010, according to official figures.