Egypt: On Friday, two armed assailants attacked a hotel in the Egyptian Red Sea resort town of Hurghada, wounding three foreign tourists, in which two Austrians and a Swede, Interior Ministry said. According to ministry statement, Security forces opened fire at the two assailants, killing one and seriously wounding the other.
The ministry said two men armed with knives had entered the outdoor restaurant at the front of the seaside, four-star Bella Vista Hotel and attacked the tourists. The ministry identified the slain attacker as 21-year-old Mohammed Hassan Mohammed Mahfouz, a student from Cairo’s neighborhood of Giza. Both attackers, it said, carried knives and pellet guns.
All three wounded tourists were taken to hospital, where one was treated and discharged, the statement said. There was no word on the condition of the other two. Security officials had initially said the attackers wounded two tourists, a Dane and a German, but such discrepancies are common in the immediate aftermath of attacks.
The attack came just hours after the local affiliate of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant claimed responsibility for an attack a day earlier on a hotel in Cairo near the Giza Pyramids. No one was hurt in the Thursday attack in which a group of over a dozen men fired flares and birdshot at a security post outside a hotel where Palestinian tourists from Israel were staying. The attackers had apparently mistaken them for Israeli Jews, who ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has asked his followers to target.
Egypt has been battling an insurgency led by the local affiliate of ISIL. The insurgency has been centered at the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula, but has frequently spilled over into the mainland since the ouster in 2013 of the Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. The Hurghada attack is a dangerous precedent since Egypt’s Red Sea resorts have done better than elsewhere in the country in withering the slump suffered by the vital tourism sector in the five years of turmoil since an uprising toppled longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak.
Thursday’s Giza attack was also significant in that it targeted a hotel in Cairo, a heavily policed city of some 18 million residents, at a time when security appeared to relatively improve in recent months after a series of bomb attacks. But the Hurghada assault is likely to further impact Egypt’s tourist industry, decimated after the downing in October of a Russian passenger plane over Sinai that killed all 224 people on board, most of them Russian tourists returning from the Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. The ISIL affiliate claimed it downed the aircraft with a bomb to avenge group members and civilians killed in Russian airstrikes in Syria.