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Monday, November 17, 1997 Published at 19:28 GMT


Tourists massacred at temple

A victim of the Luxor massacre is airlifted to hospital

More than 60 people have been killed at one of Egypt's most popular tourist attractions.

Most of the casualties were Japanese, Swiss and German tourists. Three Britons were among the dead.

Gunmen fired on them as they visited the temple of Hatshepsut in the town of Luxor. Dozens were gunned down.

A two-hour gunbattle followed, as the assailants, believed to be Islamic extremists, tried to escape into nearby ravines.

[ image: Medics attend an injured victim of the shoot-out at Luxor]
Medics attend an injured victim of the shoot-out at Luxor
The tourists fled in panic, falling to the ground and trying to hide among the tombs.

Police said there was six of gunmen and that they were all killed.

According to preliminary figures released by the Egyptian Interior Ministry, 57 tourists, a local guide and two policemen died in the attack.

Other reports say the death toll at the temple of Hatshepsut, near Luxor, could rise as high as 75, with up to 85 others injured.

The Islamic extremist group, Jamaa Islamiyya, is reported to have admitted responsbility for the attack.

Islamic militants have often targeted tourists since they took up arms in 1992 to topple the government and set up a purist Islamic state.

Luxor, about 310 miles (500 km ) south of Cairo, had previously been spared attacks by militants who have strongholds in other parts of southern Egypt.
[ image: The ruins near Luxor are among Egypt's most popular tourist attractions]
The ruins near Luxor are among Egypt's most popular tourist attractions

"We were told it was a feudal battle," one shaken British tourist, Ellen Gibson said.

The US embassy warned American citizens not to travel to southern Egypt "until the security situation is clarified and further notice is provided".

The Japanese Embassy in Cairo is advising its nationals against travelling to Egypt until the full facts of the massacre are known.

Security sources several seriously wounded victims were being flown to military hospitals in Cairo.

A curfew was imposed on Luxor, visited by about two million tourists a year, security officials added.

Last month Egypt threw a heavy security cordon around Hatshepsut temple for a performance of Verdi's opera Aida attended by showbusiness personalities and the wives of foreign leaders.

The 4,500-year-old temple, partly carved into a limestone cliff, is one of ancient Egypt's finest monuments.

On September 18, two brothers fired by Islamic fervour shot and petrol-bombed a tour bus in central Cairo, killing nine German tourists and an Egyptian driver on September 18. The confessed killers were caught, tried and sentenced to death.
[ image: A security guard watches over the burned out bus that was attacked in September]
A security guard watches over the burned out bus that was attacked in September

Attacks by militants have killed 34 foreign tourists in the past five years. Their struggle with the government has cost more than 1,100 lives, mostly militants and police.

A Swiss medical team is to fly to Egypt to help care for Swiss victims of the attack.

The massacre happened as 65 suspected Muslim militants went on trial accused of conspiring to murder and joining an outlawed group.

International condemnation

The Luxor attack has brought condemnation and messages of condolence from European leaders.

The British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, said he was horrified by what he called a sickening act of violence.

His German counterpart, Klaus Kinkel, described it as repugnant and cowardly.

Some European tour companies are making arrangements to fly home clients wishing to leave Egypt.

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