Dairout Tourist Killing

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Dairout Tourist Killing

"British Woman Slain in Attack on Egyptian Tourist Bus"

News article

By: Bahaa Elkoussy

Date: October 21, 1992

Source: United Press International.

About the Author: United Press International (UPI) is a global news and analysis provider headquartered in Washington, D.C., with offices in Beirut, Hong Kong, London, Santiago, Seoul, and Tokyo. At the time this article was written, Bahaa Elkoussy served as a news correspondent based in Cairo.


In their attempts to overthrow the Egyptian government, which they view as corrupt, Islamic extremist groups have committed terrorist acts throughout Egypt—and other parts of the Middle East. Many of their targets have been tourists in the region, particularly those on tour buses. Tourism is a thriving industry in Egypt, one of the country's most lucrative forms of income.

In 1992, Islamic terrorists began violently voicing their opposition to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, in what many critics have called a reaction to the lack of opportunity for political participation in the region. Many of these Islamist groups are not permitted to voice their concerns within the dominant political parties of Egypt because their views are often considered dangerous and subversive. But, more importantly, the Muslim Brotherhood has its headquarters in Egypt. The Brotherhood is the largest and oldest Islamist group in the Arab world, and it is still the most influential force in Egyptian politics. Many observers view the rise of Islamist extremists to be the result of republican regimes in the region—particularly those of Gamal Abdel Nasser (president of Egypt, 1956–1970), who used governmental pressures and support to silence Islamist political groups. Islamic extremists have been labeled as such by the United Nations, the Egyptian government, U.S. intelligence agencies, and much of the international media.

These conflicting social forces have produced an intense political atmosphere that is most notably seen in the attacks against civilians and non-natives to the country. Particularly during the 1970s, with the release of many members of the Muslim Brotherhood from Egyptian prisons, fundamental shifts occurred in Islamist philosophies. These ideologies labeled the state as infidel and asked supporters to plan for a revolution. These dramatic terms and intense calls for action further divided Islamist groups from mainstream politics. Finally, the belief that the state will turn Egypt into a secular society (similar to Turkey) adds to growing political tensions, and hostilities concerning Palestine and the perceived loss of Arab lands have continued to heighten already exasperated emotions.

The hostilities arising from the loss of Arab lands, and the Palestine movement, derives from the post–World War II creation of the Israeli state. The Brotherhood sent fighters to aid Palestinians in the fighting that led to the 1948 creation of Israel, and they protested in Cairo to draw attention to their opposition to the Jewish settler movement and the loss of traditionally Arab lands. As fighting progressed, and government officials became less and less tolerant toward groups aligning along lines of race, ethnicity, and religion, visible signs for resisting modernity erupted along militant lines. Coup attempts have been staged, assassinations have been carried out, and the level of fighting and insurrection has increased throughout the decades. The 1990s finally brought the fighting to a new political level with the continued and deliberate attacks against tourists in the area. Tourists became marks for attacks because tour groups provide large targets, and the presence of Westerners against the backdrop of the fear of losing Arab lands and lifestyles provides platforms for expression.


Two suspected Muslim militants attacked an Egyptian tourist bus with automatic gunfire Wednesday, killing a British woman and wounding two British tourists and the Egyptian driver, security sources and news reports said.

Witnesses reported that two masked gunmen firing automatic weapons attacked a bus operated by South Sinai Travel Agency as it passed near the town of Dairout, located 175 miles south of Cairo near some of Egypt's Pharaonic antiquities along the Nile river.

The bus was carrying six British, two Australian and one Portuguese tourist. The gunfire critically wounded Sharon Hill, 28, who died after being rushed to the Dairout General Hospital.

Since March, Dairout and surrounding areas in the governorate of Assiut, have been the scene of frequent violence by Muslim extremists and a relentless campaign against them by the government security forces.

More than 70 people have been killed and many others wounded in violence involving Muslim fundamentalists. The militants want to create a theocracy in Egypt. They have targeted government security forces, Coptic Christians and fellow Muslims opposed to their goals.

More recently they have begun to attack tourists. Three weeks ago, masked militants fired automatic weapons at a Nile cruiser carrying 140 German tourists, wounding three of the vessel's Egyptian staff as the ship traveled 19 miles north of Cairo.

A few other largely ineffective attacks on tourists were mounted by militants in the past few months, including two on tourist buses in southern Egypt. The attack Wednesday was the first in which a foreigner was killed by suspected Muslim militants.

News reports last month said a spokesman for an Islamic group warned foreign embassies to keep their citizens out of the southern area near Luxor, site of some of the country's most famous Pharaonic temples and tombs.

The warning and other incidents created concerns among authorities and travel industry executives in a country where tourism represents one of four pillars of the economy and employs about 1 million citizens.

The concerns were all the more intense as they came at a time when Egypt was preparing to host the conference of the American Society of Travel Agents, with 54,000 delegates from around the world, making it among the largest travel fairs in the world.

Last month's ASTA conference made its slogan "Tourism, the Path to Peace," and both Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his minister of tourism opened the parley with messages emphasizing stability as necessary for thriving tourism industry.


The terrorist attacks on October 21, 1992, coincided with a warning from Islamic extremists in September. A spokesman for Gama'a al-Islamiyyah aired a warning for tourists to stay away from the province of Qena—an area of Egypt holding some of the region's most visited temples and shrines. Then on October 1, masked gunmen opened fire on a Nile cruise ship, wounding three of the cruiser's Egyptian staff.

These terrorists attacks have occurred regularly since the 1990s, and the Egyptian government has taken numerous steps to obtain cease-fires from the Islamic groups, protect foreign tourists, and end the attacks. These attempts have not always been successful—as evidenced by the 1997 massacre of fifty-eight tourists at Luxor, Egypt. The Luxor massacre, along with the numerous other terrorist attacks on tourists, briefly curbed the Egyptian tourist industry. The industry remained in decline until 2002, but it has gradually recovered. The Egyptian government has continually refused to legally recognize the Muslim Brotherhood and many other Islamic groups as legitimate political parties for fear that their official emergence on the national scene will not stop the fighting. Rather, the government assumes that formal acknowledgment of these terrorist organizations will only give them a sense of justification for their actions.

In the wake of the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, and the ensuing war on terror, Egypt has increased its security and alert level. These actions derive from a need, and desire, to end the hostilities. They also stem from U.S. and Egyptian intelligence reports stating that some members of Islamic extremists groups have aligned with Osama Bin Laden, who is believed to be planning an attack on Egypt similar to the ones lodged against the United States.



Hoffman, Bruce. Inside Terrorism. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.

Web sites

CNN.com. "Egypt Seeks to Reassure Tourists after Terrorist Attacks." <http://www.cnn.com/TRAVEL/NEWS/9711/28/egypt.security/> (accessed June 21, 2005).