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February 18, 2014

Islamists Claim Egypt Tourist Attack

by Edward Yeranian

Islamic militants have claimed responsibility for an apparent suicide attack on a tourist bus carrying Korean pilgrims in the Sinai on Sunday.

A statement by a group calling itself “Ansar Beit al-Maqdis” or "Supporters of Jerusalem," claimed responsibility for the apparent suicide bombing. The Arabic text called the bomber a “hero,” and said the attack was “part of (the group's) economic war” against Egyptian authorities. The authenticity of the statement could not be confirmed.

The group has claimed responsibility for several previous attacks.

Mourners chanted the funeral liturgy for the slain driver of the tourist bus at Mar Girgis Church in Cairo Tuesday, as the Egyptian media lashed out at “terrorists” for the Sinai attack that killed three people, including two South Koreans.

​​Reuters news agency reported the same group, “Ansar Beit al-Maqdis,” warned tourists to leave Egypt before February 20 on a Twitter account affiliated with the group. Other foreign and Egyptian sources reported the tweet was bogus and the group has no official Twitter account.

Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi said Tuesday that Ansar Beit al-Maqdis is a threat to tourists in Egypt and is trying to undermine the country's political progress.

Police General Mustafa Rega'i, security chief for Giza province, told a press conference Tuesday that terrorism would not be tolerated anywhere in Egypt.

He said that he warns terrorists to stay away from Egypt and for all those who support them to stay away as well.

Many Egyptian analysts claim that Islamic militants in the northern Sinai have ties to both the Palestinian group Hamas and the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood denies the charges.

Egyptian analyst Said Sadek said the origins of the “Ansar Beit al-Maqdis” group are murky at best and that it is odd that a group with a name related to Palestinians would be attacking only Egyptian targets.

"Why did they intensify their attacks only on Egyptian authorities, while their official name is that they are the "Supporters of Jerusalem" and why should they attack the Egyptian government especially after [ousted President] Morsi left office," he asked. "Is this Palestinian or Egyptian or something that has been created to support Morsi through violence?"

The same group claimed responsibility for a failed assassination attempt against Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim last year. It also claimed responsibility for a bombing last month at Egypt's security headquarters in Cairo. Islamic militants have killed scores of police and army officers in attacks since Islamist President Mohamed Morsi was deposed last July.