Egypt militants warn tourists to leave

February 19, 2014 - 2:47:53 am

Tourists depart Egypt via the Taba Land Port crossing yesterday, two days after a tourist bus exploded in the south Sinai resort town near the border with Israel.

CAIRO: A militant Islamist group has warned tourists to leave Egypt and threatened to attack any who stay after February 20, raising the prospect of a new front in a fast-growing insurgency in the biggest Arab nation.

The Sinai-based Ansar Bayt Al Maqdis group, which claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed two South Korean tourists and an Egyptian on Sunday, made the statement on an affiliated Twitter account.

“We recommend tourists to get out safely before the expiry of the deadline,” read the tweet, written in English, which Egypt’s prime minister said yesterday aimed to undermine the political process begun after an army takeover in July.

Ansar Bayt Al Maqdis has said that it does not post statements on social media sites, but statements that appeared on the Twitter account in the past have afterwards surfaced on jihadist websites the group says it does use.

Islamist militants have killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers since the army deposed Islamist president Mohamed Mursi seven months ago, but Sunday’s attack on a tourist bus marks a tactical shift to soft targets that could devastate an economy already reeling from political turmoil.

State television quoted Prime Minister Hazem El Beblawi as saying Ansar was a threat to tourists. It aimed, he said, to derail the road map to elections unveiled by the army when Mursi’s fall provoked the bloodiest internal crisis in Egypt’s modern history.

Ansar has said it was behind Sunday’s suicide bombing near the resort of Taba.

In another sign of instability, an explosion wounded four Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai yesterday, state-run Al Ahram newspaper reported on its website.

Ansar Bayt Al Maqdis, Egypt’s most active Islamist militant organisation, has threatened to topple the interim government installed by army chief Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, who is expected to run for president.

Ansar enjoys tacit support from at least some of the marginalised Bedouin community and smugglers in the Sinai. This has enabled them to survive several army offensives in the largely lawless peninsula.

An army source said that the latest attacks were a reaction to a military offensive which was hurting militants. “They are breathing their last breath,” he said.

REUTERS

 

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