People watch as smoke rises from the bus following the
A bomb on a tourist bus in Egypt's Sinai killed at least
two South Koreans and the Egyptian driver, army and security
sources say, in the first attack on tourists since an army
takeover in July spurred an Islamist insurgency.
The Interior Ministry said the bus was travelling 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 both Islamist militants
and the Muslim Brotherhood of deposed President Mohamed
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 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.
Sisi, who is expected to announce his candidacy for the
presidency soon, had hoped a political roadmap unveiled after
Mursi's overthrow would stabilise 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.
Egyptian Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou said he was "very
disappointed" by the attack, which revived memories of an
Islamist uprising in the 1990s that often targeted tourists
and took years for former President Hosni Mubarak to crush.
"I hope this will be an isolated incident that will not
recur," he told Reuters. "All the rest of the country is safe
and secure and what happened can happen anywhere in the
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
In 2004, a bombing at the Sinai resort of Taba killed 34
people, including Israeli tourists.
MURSI ON TRIAL
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
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.
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
organisation 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
The Brotherhood condemned the attack on the bus.
"It is sad to note that 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.