Two Koreans and Egyptian driver die in Sinai tourist bus blast

People and security officials walk and look as smoke rises from a tourist bus in the Red Sea resort town of Taba in the south Sinai, February 16, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer
People and security officials look on as smoke rises from a tourist bus in the Red Sea resort town of Taba in the south Sinai on Feb. 16. Credit: Reuters

A bomb on a tourist bus in Egypt’s Sinai killed at least two South Koreans and the Egyptian driver on Sunday, army and security sources said, in the first attack on tourists since an army takeover in July spurred an Islamist insurgency.

The Interior Ministry said the bus was traveling from St. Catherine’s Monastery, a popular tourist destination in the south Sinai, to nearby Israel when it was attacked.

It did not state the cause of the blast, in which another 24 people were wounded. Two security sources said a bomb had been detonated either inside or near the bus.

“This is a terrorist act that was carried out with an explosive device,” said an army source. Egyptian officials use the word “terrorist” to describe Islamist militants.

Presidential spokesman Ehab Badawy called the attack a “despicable act of cowardice directed at innocent tourists”.

Al Qaeda-inspired Islamist militants based in the largely lawless Sinai peninsula have stepped up attacks on security forces since army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in July after mass protests against his rule.

If militants were behind Sunday’s bombing, it would mark a shift in strategy to attacking “softer” tourist and economic targets. Egypt’s vital tourism industry has already been hit hard by three years of political turmoil and street protests.

Hopes of stability

Sisi, who is expected to announce his candidacy for the presidency soon, had hoped a political road map unveiled after Mursi’s overthrow would stabilize Egypt, which has a peace treaty with Israel and controls the Suez Canal, a busy world shipping channel on the Sinai’s western edge.

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry confirmed the two deaths of two of its nationals and said nine people had been wounded. It said 32 South Koreans were on the bus and that the tourists were Christians from the same church in South Korea.

The attack revived memories of an Islamist uprising in the 1990s that often targeted tourists and took years for then-president Hosni Mubarak to crush.

“I hope this will be an isolated incident that will not recur,” Egyptian Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou told Reuters. “All the rest of the country is safe and secure, and what happened can happen anywhere in the world.”

Islamist militants launch near-daily attacks on security forces in northern Sinai, while the south, with its many Red Sea resorts, had been seen as a relatively safe tourist destination.

In 2004, a bombing at the Sinai resort of Taba killed 34 people, including Israeli tourists.

State television showed a photograph of the bus, its windows smashed and the roof partially torn off. Black smoke billowed from the site of the explosion on a palm tree-lined boulevard.

The blast occurred as Mursi, Egypt’s first freely elected leader, appeared in court on charges of conspiring with foreign groups to commit terrorist acts.

‘Soft targets’

His Muslim Brotherhood says it is a peaceful group and denies any links with insurgents, who since July have also attacked targets in Cairo and other cities outside Sinai.

“The militants in Sinai are now looking for soft targets, without entering confrontation with police and armed forces, who have taken precautions,” said Mustapha Kamel Al-Sayid, a professor of political science at Cairo University.

“This is a cheap win for them without a high risk.”

While the army-installed government has driven the Brotherhood underground, it is struggling to cope with the militants in the Sinai, despite repeated army offensives.

The militants are scattered around a desert and mountain landscape they have mastered. Close links with bedouins and smugglers in the Sinai, an impoverished area long neglected by the central government, help them avoid capture.

The most prominent Sinai-based group, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, has claimed responsibility for several bombings, including an attempt to kill the interior minister in Cairo last year. The organization also said it was behind a missile attack on a military helicopter last month that killed five soldiers.

Egyptian authorities have declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group and lump it together with the Sinai militants.

The Brotherhood condemned the attack on the bus, and said it would boycott the forthcoming presidential election.

“The military-backed authorities have, once again, failed to uphold their duty of protection and care towards visitors and Egyptian citizens alike,” it said in a statement issued by its London media office.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
International

Jews in eastern Ukraine ordered to register, Kerry…

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned reports that Jews in eastern Ukraine had been ordered to register with the authorities "or suffer the consequences."

National

Chelsea Clinton pregnant with first child

Chelsea Clinton is pregnant with her first child.

National

Divers struggle in search for South Korean ferry…

By Jungmin Jang and Narae KimMOKPO/JINDO, South Korea (Reuters) - Rescuers struggled with strong waves and murky waters on Thursday as they searched for hundreds…

National

New Hampshire moves to decriminalize adultery

For the first time in hundreds of years, it's about to be legal to cheat on your spouse in New Hampshire.

Movies

Review: 'Transcendence' is not stupid but sometimes lacks…

The cyberthriller "Transcendence" explores artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and other ethical quandaries, but has too much ambition, if anything.

Television

Shane West talks WGN America's 'Salem'

The actor on history lessons, a new network and showing his butt.

Movies

Review: 'Fading Gigolo' finds few jokes in women…

John Turturro writes, directs and stars in "Fading Gigolo," in which he plays a prostitute whose pimp is Woody Allen. And there's still very few jokes.

Movies

Interview: 'Fading Gigolo' director John Turturro talks about…

John Turturro discusses his new film "Fading Gigolo," how to get Woody Allen to wear more than khakis and the far-off "Barton Fink" sequel.

NBA

Carmelo Anthony agonizing over Knicks future as season…

There’s still the cloud hanging over the franchise’s head as to the pending free-agent status of All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony.

NFL

Jets host players with eye toward NFL Draft

The Jets hosted a number of NFL Draft hopefuls for workouts on Thursday, with an eye toward some under-the-radar players.

NFL

Chris Johnson: I wanted to go to 'a…

Now that Chris Johnson is a Jet, the team has to figure out if one of the most explosive players in the NFL over the last half decade has anything…

NHL

Rangers' speed versus Flyers' size makes interesting playoff…

Among the myriad aspects that will make this Metropolitan Division semifinal series fascinating will be the battle between the Rangers' speed and the Flyers' size,…

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.

Travel

Earth Day travel in the Florida Keys

See why this eco-friendly destination deserves your attention.

Tech

Sorry, Facebook — FarmVille goes mobile with 'Country…

Zynga has released a version of the hit "FarmVille" tailored for smartphones and tablets in the hope of reaping a bumper crop of players.