Islamic supremacists hate pagan antiquities. They are the remnants of jahiliyya, the pre-Islamic period of ignorance. They could provoke idolatry. They consequently must be destroyed. “Suicide bomber attacks Egypt’s Luxor temple tourist site,” by Louisa Loveluck and Magdy Samaan, Telegraph, June 10, 2015:
A suicide bomber blew himself up near one of Egypt’s most popular tourist sites on Wednesday, wounding four people, including two policemen.
Although officials said no tourists were wounded, the attack at the ancient Egyptian Karnak Temple near Luxor was the second in just over a week on a major attraction in Egypt, where tourism is a vital source of income and foreign currency.
There were 604 tourists in the sprawling Nile-side complex at the time.
Police in Luxor said they had averted a “massacre” after security officials grew suspicious when a tax refused a request for the car boot to be searched. One attacker then detonated a suicide vest outside the world famous Karnak temple, wounding a handful of bystanders.
One accomplice was killed and another seriously injured in the ensuing firefight, according to AFP news agency.
A local general warned that a far bloodier outcome had been averted.
“If they had managed to enter the temple, it would have been a massacre,” he told AFP , saying the bags had contained 19 fully loaded rifle magazines.
The foiled attack raises uncomfortable memories of one of the darkest chapters in Egypt’s recent history. In 1997, militants turned guns and machetes on tourists at the site, killing 58 people in the country’s worst ever terrorist assault.
Wednesday’s blast raised the spectre of future attacks on the country’s fragile tourism industry, underscoring the fragility of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s promise to restore economic stability and security to a country that has yet to recover from the turmoil which followed its 2011 uprising.
Tourism is the lifeblood of Luxor and one of the Egyptian government’s main sources of revenue. The authorities have spent the past year trying to win tourists back to its heritage sites and beaches, paying for glossy billboard and bus-side adverts across London and other European capitals.
German tour operator TUI Deutschland said on Wednesday that it had cancelled all excursions to Luxor. But other companies ploughed on unaffected. Mohammed Othman, deputy director of Luxor’s local association of tour operators, confirmed that four groups of foreign tourists had visited the temple after the morning attack, calling it a “wake up call”for the government to tighten security around tourist sites.
The British ambassador in Cairo, John Casson, condemned the attack. “The UK stands with Egypt against this terrorist violence and the poisonous ideology that feeds it. We will defeat it,” he said.
Although there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attempted attack, the militants appeared to have been attempting a complex operation bearing the hallmarks of Egypt’s Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) loyalists, Sinai Province.
The jihadist group has been locked in battle with the army in a region running along the border with Israel and Gaza. It has claimed responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of security personnel in the area and beheaded several local residents on charges of spying.
In February 2014, the militants bombed a tourist bus in the nearby resort town of Taba, killing four people. The group has failed to mount successful attacks on the Egyptian mainland over the past year, but observers say the group pursued a significant escalation in its attacking strategy on Tuesday night, hitting an airbase housing an international peacekeeping force in North Sinai.
Wednesday’s attack was the second this month by suspected Islamist militants near a major tourist attraction. On June 3, gunmen on a speeding motorcycle opened fire outside the famed Giza Pyramids on the outskirts of Cairo, killing two police officers.
• Sharm el-Sheikh hotels empty as tourists fear violence
“Even if tourists themselves aren’t the targets, as they seemed not to be last week near the pyramids, such events are likely to worry the international community at a time that tourists are starting to return to places like Cairo and Luxor,” said Zack Gold, Visiting Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.
Egypt’s antiquities minister issued orders on Wednesday to intensify security at antiquities sites across the country in co-ordination with the Interior Ministry.
More than 14.7 million tourists visited Egypt in 2010, but footfall figures dived the following year after a mass uprising unseated longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. In 2013, the figure shrank to just 9.5 million, after the authorities led a military coup and implemented a three month-long night-time curfew.