Monday 18 December 2017

Egypt police probe motives of Red Sea beach attacker

Egypt police probe motives of Red Sea beach attacker
(AFP 07/16/17)

Police on Saturday questioned the suspected jihadist who stabbed to death two German women and wounded four others at a Red Sea beach resort, adding to the woes of Egypt's hobbled tourism industry.

Elsewhere the interior ministry said police killed six militants in two shootouts near Cairo and the eastern Ismailiya province.

Egypt has struggled to quash militant attacks led by the Islamic State group, whose local branch is based in the Sinai Peninsula, after the army ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

Judicial sources said the Hurghada assailant who had swum ashore from a public beach to carry out Friday's attack confessed to sharing the ideology of the Islamic State jihadist group, although there was no IS claim of responsibility.

The sources said the suspect, a 28-year-old from Kafr al-Sheikh province in the Nile Delta, north of Cairo, has been transferred to the capital for questioning.

At the same time, the prosecution said in a statement that it had not yet confirmed the assailant's motives and urged the media "to stop resorting to speculation or getting ahead of the investigation".

The streets of Hurghada were being heavily patrolled and security was stepped up outside hotels on Saturday.

"I was sitting down in my shop when we heard people shouting. We ran outside and heard that someone had swum to the next door hotel and was attacking foreigners," said Rafic Rushdi, the owner of a hotel shop.

"After killing two women, he ran towards our hotel. He was shouting that he was not after Egyptians, and some Egyptians intervened to stop him."

- 'Cowardly crime' -

After initial confusion over the nationality of the women killed, Berlin on Saturday said they were both German nationals, rather than Ukrainians as earlier reported.

"I am very upset by this cowardly crime, my condolences to the families of the victims," German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said.

Among the four others wounded were two Armenian women and a woman from the Czech Republic, authorities in those countries said.

It was not the first attack in Hurghada.

In January 2016, three tourists were wounded in a stabbing assault in the resort by two assailants with apparent IS sympathies.

In Tunisia, IS claimed a beach attack in June 2015 when a student armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle and grenades went on a rampage near the Mediterranean resort of Sousse killing 38 holidaymakers, 30 of them Britons, before being shot dead by police.

Hurghada is one of Egypt's most popular beach resorts, especially with Ukrainians and other European tourists.

Egyptian authorities say they have boosted security at tourist sites.

Tourism provides the Arab world's most populous country with much-needed revenues.

An IS bombing of a Russian airliner carrying holidaymakers from a resort in the south of the Sinai in 2015 killed all 224 people on board and decimated the tourism sector.

Russia suspended all flights to Egypt in response and has yet to resume them.

IS has been waging a deadly insurgency concentrated in the north of the Sinai that has killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers.

- Police, Copts also targeted -

It has also killed dozens of Coptic Christians in church bombings and shootings since December, and pledged further attacks.

On Saturday, a Muslim man stabbed a security guard at a church in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria after the guard asked to check his bag.

The attacker was quickly subdued and is being questioned, a police official told AFP.

The incident came days after leaders of the Christian minority suspended some services such as conferences and religious trips for three weeks over security concerns.

On Friday, unknown assailants shot dead five policemen just south of Cairo, in the latest of a series of attacks targeting Egypt's security forces.

The killings came as police and the army said they were closing in on militants and jihadists following a spate of deadly attacks in the Nile Valley and the Sinai.

The interior ministry said two of the militants killed on Saturday belonged to the Hasam movement which has targeted police and government officials in and near Cairo.

The group is believed to be linked to a faction of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, which splintered after a deadly police crackdown following his overthrow.

burs-se/hkb

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