CAIRO: Three explosive devices were neutralized Wednesday near Karnak Temple after a suicide bomber rocked the parking area of the temple, killing himself and another attacker and injuring at least five Egyptians including a police officer, according to Youm7.
“A police officer, a conscript, the third bomber and two waiters working at a cafeteria outside the temple were injured,” a medical source told Youm7, adding that the five injured were escorted to Luxor international hospital.
One of the two bombers was killed in a fire exchange with the tourism policemen in charge of securing the temple, security source told Youm7.
The three attackers were drinking lemon juice at a cafeteria at the parking area before they began attacking, workers at Karnak temple told Youm7. Attorney-General Hesham Barakat ordered a comprehensive investigation into the incident.
For his part, Antiquities Minister Mamdouh al-Damaty said “no casualties were reported among tourists who were visiting the temple during the explosion,” according to Youm7.
“The attack might have been aimed at the tour groups arriving at the temple. It took place at around 10:30 a.m.; a time when all overland tour buses coming from Hurghada and Sharm al-Sheikh arrive,” tour guide Ahmed Mohsen told The Cairo Post.
The bombing occurred at the temple’s parking area, which is about 500 meters from the temple’s entrance, said Mohsen, who was leading a group inside the temple at the time of the explosion.
Mohsen said the parking area was “luckily” empty when the suicide bomber blew himself up. Thus far, no particular group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Tourism policemen at the site have foiled two other suicide attacks targeting the 4,000 year-old temple.
Entrances to all Egypt’s temples, archaeological sites and hotels are secured by metal detector gates.
This was not the first time a tourist area in Luxor has been targeted, albeit in a relatively long time.
On Nov. 17, 1997, at least 60 people, mostly tourists, were killed when gunmen opened fire at them while visiting the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut on the west bank of Luxor.
The attack was meant to cripple tourism revenues for the government of then-president Mubarak.
Egypt depends on tourism for around 20 percent of its hard currency. The sector’s total investments are valued at $9.8 billion, according to the Ministry of Tourism.
The country has suffered successive low tourist turnout since the January 25 Revolution that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. In 2010, Egypt had its highest number of tourists on record at 14.7 million. In 2013 however, only 9.5 million holidaymakers came, according to CAPMAS.
A shift towards attacks on touristic sites could undermine Egypt’s efforts to win back foreign tourists scared away by political turmoil since a 2011 uprising which ousted former President Hosni Mubarak.