The Hurghada Attack and the Continuous Terror Campaign Against Tourists in Egypt

Last week's attack at the Red Sea resort of Hurghada was the latest blow to Egypt's struggling tourism industry, which is a pillar of the Egyptian economy and an important source of foreign currency revenue. Special analysis by Col. (res.) Dr. Shaul Shay

Egyptian security forces stand guard outside the Bella Vista Hotel in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada, Egypt (Photo: AP)

Two German tourists were killed and four other tourists injured at a resort in Hurghada when a man attacked them with a knife on July 13, 2017. The injured include one Czech woman and two Armenian women. Hurghada is a popular tourist resort located on the Red Sea. The attack comes just as the Egyptian authorities were hoping to 'relaunch' their country as a tourist destination for 2017.

According to a short statement by the Egyptian interior ministry, the assailant, who was arrested after the attack, had swum to the resort from a nearby public beach. Security sources within the Hurghada security directorate told Al-Ahram Arabic's correspondent in the city that the suspect was named as Abdel-Rahman Shams El-Din, 28, an Egyptian from the Nile Delta governorate of Kafr El-Sheikh.

The governor of the Red Sea governorate, Ahmed Abdullah, cut his holiday in Cairo short and returned to the governorate, where resort town Hurghada is located, to follow up on the incident, Al-Ahram reported.

Germany has confirmed that the two tourists killed after being stabbed in the Red Sea resort city of Hurghada were German nationals. The German foreign ministry released a statement condemning the attacks.

This is the second attack against tourists in Hurghada. In both cases, the assailants used knives to stab their victims.

Previous Attacks on Tourist Targets Since 2015

The attack on tourists in a hotel in Hurghada (January 8, 2016): On January 8, 2016, two terrorists carrying knives stormed the restaurant of the Bella Vista Hotel located in the busy downtown area of Hurghada.

Security forces shot the attackers, killing one and wounding the other. The police said that the dead assailant's name was Mohamed Hassan Mahfouz, born in 1994. Reuters earlier reported security sources as saying that the assailants arrived by sea to carry out the attack. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but a restaurant employee stated that one of the assailants shouted "There is no god but God" upon entering, and carried a black banner that resembled the Islamic State flag.

A Swedish tourist and an elderly Austrian couple were wounded in the attack. On January 9, 2016, Egyptian tourism minister Hisham Zaazou visited the three injured tourists and vowed to beef up security at the resort in the wake of the attack.

The attack on a hotel and Israeli tourist bus in Cairo (January 7, 2016): On January 7, 2016, a gunman on a motorcycle attacked a hotel in the Egyptian capital of Cairo as tourists were boarding a bus parked outside the building. No one was hurt. The attack took place outside the Three Pyramids Hotel which is situated on a road leading to the famous Giza pyramids. The hotel's facade and the bus were damaged in the attack. A security official said about 40 Arab Israelis were inside waiting to board a bus when the attack occurred.

Police said that the assailants had targeted policemen guarding the hotel and not the Israeli tourists.

The Islamic State group said on January 7, 2016, that its members carried out an attack on Israeli tourists in Cairo, in response to a call by the group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, to target Jews "everywhere." The group said in an online statement that small arms were used in the assault outside a Cairo hotel, in which no one was hurt.

In their statement, the group claimed the attack resulted in "deaths and injuries" among security personnel guarding the hotel and tourists. No exact number of causalities was provided in the statement.

The terror attack in Giza (November 2015): In November 2015, a masked gunman on a motorcycle fired at a police vehicle, killing four policemen, in an area between the famed Giza pyramids west of Cairo and the Saqarra pyramids to the south, the Egyptian interior ministry said.

Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, which has sworn allegiance to the Islamic State group, has claimed responsibility for the attack. The statement vowed to continue targeting the "soldiers of the tyrant," referring to President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi.

The Russian Metrojet flight bombing over Sinai (October 2015): On October 31, 2015, a homemade bomb brought down the Metrojet airliner (Flight 9268) over Egypt’s Sinai desert. The Airbus A321-231 was carrying 217 passengers, mainly returning Russian holidaymakers and seven crewmembers from Egypt's Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport en route to Pulkovo Airport in the Russian city of St. Petersburg. All the passengers and crewmembers died in the crash. With its death toll of 224 people, the crash of Flight 9268 is the deadliest both in the history of Russian aviation and within Egyptian territory.

According to a report, investigators found the bomb erupted with force equivalent to "a kilo of TNT." The investigation was conducted by experts from both Russian and Egyptian aviation agencies, joined by a team from the European Aviation Safety Agency and the US National Transportation Safety Board. The EASA and NTSB teams were involved because the Airbus is made in Europe and the engines manufactured in the US.

Shortly after the crash, the ISIS's Sinai branch, previously known as Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, claimed responsibility for the incident. ISIS claimed responsibility on Twitter, on video, and in a statement by Abu Osama al-Masri, the leader of the group's Sinai branch. ISIS posted pictures of what it said was the bomb in its online magazine Dabiq.

The terror attack in Karnak Temple (June 2015): On June 10, 2015, a suicide bomber blew himself up as part of a coordinated terror attack on the ancient Temple of Karnak. The temple is one of the most important historical ancient Egyptian attractions in the country, second only to the pyramids at Giza in numbers of tourist visits. Four Egyptians were injured including one member of the security forces. There were no injuries to tourists.

Egyptian Police officials have said they foiled an attack and that at least two militants had been killed and a third wounded, while a car used by the attackers exploded.

The attack was the first to target world-famous attractions in Luxor since November 1997, when Islamic militants opened fire on tourists at the city's 3,400-year-old Hatshepsut Temple on the west bank of the Nile, killing 58.

The attack against members of the tourism police at Giza (June 2015): On June 2, 2015, gunmen on a motorcycle shot dead two members of Egypt's tourism and antiquities police force on a road near the Giza pyramids. The security sources said the incident happened about 30 meters from a security checkpoint leading to the tourist site on the western outskirts of Cairo.


The attack in Hurghada is the latest blow to Egypt's struggling tourism industry, and the incident further undermines efforts to repair the country's damaged tourism industry.

Tourism is a pillar of the Egyptian economy and an important source of foreign currency revenue. Since 2011, the tourist sector suffered a number of setbacks including several terrorist attacks by Islamic militants affiliated with ISIS, culminating in the downing of a Russian airliner traveling from the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh in October 2015, which claimed 224 lives. The terror campaign against tourists in Egypt diminished the number of tourists visiting Egypt.

The improvement of the internal security in Egypt is a precondition to the recovery of the struggling tourism industry in the country. The safety and security of tourists are a global interest, and the international community should join forces with Egypt to improve the security of tourism in Egypt and beyond.