News / Middle East

Egypt Militants Warn Tourists to Leave or Face Attack

Security officials and onlookers are seen at the site of a tourist bus blast in the Egyptian south Sinai resort town of Taba, Feb. 16, 2014.
Security officials and onlookers are seen at the site of a tourist bus blast in the Egyptian south Sinai resort town of Taba, Feb. 16, 2014.
Reuters
A militant Islamist group has warned tourists to leave Egypt and threatened to attack any who stay in the country after February 20, raising the prospect of a new front in a fast-growing insurgency.

The Sinai-based Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis group, which claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed two South Korean tourists and an Egyptian on Sunday, made the statement on an affiliated Twitter account.

“We recommend tourists to get out safely before the expiry of the deadline,” read the tweet, written in English.

Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has said in the past that it does not post statements on social media sites but statements that appeared on the Twitter account in the past have afterwards surfaced on jihadi websites the group does say it uses.

Islamist militants have killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers since the army deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July, but Sunday's attack on a tourist bus marks a strategic shift to soft targets that could devastate an economy already reeling from political turmoil.

“What Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has announced, threatening to target tourists in the coming period, puts new challenges in front of the Egyptian security apparatus and the state in general,” said Interior Ministry spokesman Hany Abdel Latif.

Tourists scared

The uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak in 2011 scared off many tourists, dealing a major blow to an industry that was a major employer and accounted for more than 10 percent of gross domestic product before the anti-Mubarak revolt.

Visitors are down to a trickle since army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi deposed Morsi, triggering a bloody political crisis.

Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, Egypt's most active Islamist militant organization, has threatened to topple the interim government installed by Sisi.

Ansar enjoys tacit support from at least some of the marginalized Bedouin community and smugglers in the Sinai. This has enabled them to survive several army offensives in the largely lawless peninsula.

“Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis poses the most formidable security threat in current-day Egypt,” said Anthony Skinner, Middle East and North Africa director at risk analyst Maplecroft.

“This is not only reflected in the attack on the tourist bus in Taba last weekend, but also in the series of bombings in the Nile Valley and Nile Delta regions.”

In one of the boldest attacks claimed by Ansar, a car bomb killed 16 people at security headquarters in the city of Mansoura on Dec. 24. The attack was claimed on the same Twitter account before jihadi sites carried the official statement.

While security forces have crushed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has become more brazen.

The group has extended its reach beyond the Sinai to cities including Cairo, where they claimed responsibility for an assassination attempt on the interior minister.

“This statement, if genuine, would add tourism quite explicitly to the target set already outlined by Ansar, which includes security forces and economic interests of the state and the army,” said Anna Boyd, an analyst at London-based IHS Jane's.

An army source told Reuters that the latest militant attacks were a reaction to a military offensive which was hurting militants. “They are breathing their last breath,” he said.

You May Like

India PM Modi's Party Distances Itself From Religious Conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid