Two Dead in Failed Terror Attack at 4,000-Year-Old Temple in Luxor, Egypt

A third attacker is in custody.

Carved head of Ramesses II with obelisk base, colossal statue of Ramesses II, and first pylon in the background, Temple of Luxor, Thebes (UNESCO World Heritage Site, 1979), Egypt. Egyptian civilization, New Kingdom, 19th dynasty. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
Carved head of Ramesses II with obelisk base, colossal statue of Ramesses II, and first pylon in the background, Temple of Luxor, Thebes (UNESCO World Heritage Site, 1979), Egypt. Egyptian civilization, New Kingdom, 19th dynasty. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

This morning, police officers successfully foiled a suicide bombing attempt at the historic Karnak temple in Luxor, Egypt.

According to the Wall Street Journal, when three men refused to go through a security screening near the 4,000-year-old temple complex, the police responded quickly, opening fire as the attackers pulled out their weapons.

Two of the men were reportedly shot and killed, one by a suicide bomb that detonated after he had been hit. The third attacker was seriously wounded and taken into police custody.

No civilians were killed, but there are conflicting reports as to the number of bystanders who were injured during the shootout. “No tourists were hurt and the temple was not damaged as the attack happened outside it in the cars park,” Mohamed Badr, governor of Luxor, assured the Telegraph.

An Egyptian security official stands guard at the site of a suicide car bomb attack near the ancient Karnak Temple in Egypts southern city of Luxor on June 10, 2015. Photo by Radwan Aboulmagd/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.

An Egyptian security official stands guard at the site of a suicide car bomb attack near the ancient Karnak Temple in Egypts southern city of Luxor on June 10, 2015. Photo by Radwan Aboulmagd/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.

Badr confirmed that the third suspect was being treated at Luxor International Hospital, but declined to speculate as who might be responsible, saying “we have not interrogated him yet to know who is behind the attack.”

Mamdouh al-Damaty, the antiquities minister, told Al Jazeera that security at ancient sites across the country would be increased.

Islamic militants have orchestrated a number of attacks in the country in recent years, and the Sinai-based Ansar Beit al-Maqdis armed group, an early suspect in today’s failed bombing, recently declared its allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS).

The Islamic State is known for its targeting of ancient historic temples and sites, which it believes to be idolatrous. ISIS also claimed responsibility for the Bardo Museum shooting in Tunis in March.

The Luxor attack follows an incident last week near the Pyramids, which saw two tourism and antiquities police officers killed by gunmen on motorcycles.

The illuminated statues during a light show at the Luxor Temple in Luxor, Upper Egypt. Photo by Gehad Hamdy/picture alliance with Getty Images.

The illuminated statues during a light show at the Luxor Temple in Luxor, Upper Egypt. Photo by Gehad Hamdy/picture alliance with Getty Images.

Earlier this year, El Arish Museum for antiquities in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula was severely damaged by militants. The museum’s collection had been moved offsite for its protection in June 2013, when president Mohamed Morsi was deposed. The institution has remained closed the last two years.

In 1997, the Luxor massacre, thought to have been led the by Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya Islamist group, left 62 dead at the Deir el-Bahri archaological site’s temple of Hatshepsut, located across the Nile from the city.

The Karnak temple ranks with the famed Great Pyramids at Giza as one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions. Egypt’s tourism industry has struggled since the 2011 Arab Spring uprising, with the Guardian reporting a 95 percent drop in ticket sales at its archaeological monuments.

In an effort to boost the flagging industry, the country has invested several restoration projects, including reassembling a giant statue of Pharaoh Amenhotep III that collapsed 3,200 years ago outside his Luxor temple.

Even without terrorism in the picture, Egypt’s cultural heritage faces plenty of threats. In recent months, corrupt curators at Cairo’s National Museum of Egyptian Civilization were caught stealing museum artifacts, and a cleaning crew caused significant damage to the iconic King Tut funerary mask.


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