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Wednesday, November 19, 1997 Published at 14:12 GMT


Interior Minister quits after Egyptian massacre

Security stepped up at tourist sites

The Egyptian Interior Minister, Hassan Al-Alfi, has resigned following the gun massacre of more than 60 people in Luxor.

The Assistant Interior Minister for State Security, Major-General Habib el-Adli, will take over the office.

On a visit to the scene of the carnage on Tuesday, Egypt's President, Hosni Mubarak, said his country's security services had failed.

[ image: President Mubarak: Security will be tightened]
President Mubarak: Security will be tightened
"There were no security people here. This is a tourist region and you are telling me the police were two kilometers (1.2 miles) away. This is a joke," he said.

Mr Alfi, who accompanied the President to Luxor, returned to Cairo alone. Mr Mubarak said "weak security" was the reason for the resignation.

An Islamic extremist group, Gama'a al-Islamiya, earlier claimed responsibility for the attack, which killed 58 overseas tourists and four Egyptians.

In a statement to a news agency, it said the shootings were a bid to have its spiritual leader, Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, released from prison in the United States.

[ image: More than 60 died in hail of bullets]
More than 60 died in hail of bullets
He was jailed for conspiring to blow up the World Trade Center in New York.

The Interior Ministry said it identified one of the dead gunmen from fingerprints as Midhat Mohammed Abdel-Rahman Hassan, who was on the run after earlier attacks.

Mr Mubarak also announced a committee chaired by Prime Minister Kamal al-Janzuri will report within 72 hours on how to guarantee safety at tourist sites.

Holidaymakers flee Egypt

The internal developments come as thousands of tourists flee Egypt. Many more around the world have decided to scrap their tours following the massacre at the Hatshepsut temple, near the southern city of Luxor.

[ image: Security given a high profile in Luxor]
Security given a high profile in Luxor
The British Government is advising people not to travel to Luxor and British tour operators have suspended trips for the time being.

Finnish tour operators have cancelled all 7,000 trips booked this winter and the last of 300 Finnish tourists who were in Egypt have already returned home.

In Tokyo, the country's largest tour operator has cancelled all visits to Luxor and is considering halting other tours to Egypt. The Japanese government is advising nationals against travelling to Egypt.

[ image: Not everyone has been put off visiting the temple]
Not everyone has been put off visiting the temple
The US embassy warned American citizens not to travel to southern Egypt "until the security situation is clarified and further notice is provided."

The massacre is a massive blow to Egypt's campaign to revive the tourism industry which is vital to its economy.

Egyptian stocks fell more than 1.5% on Tuesday, although experts said they thought the market would recover.

Yet, despite the attack, tourists continued to flock to the temple on Tuesday.

Bodies being flown home

A total of 68 people, including six gunmen, were killed in the attack.

The Swiss ambassador to Egypt said 35 Swiss tourists were killed. Ten Japanese and six Britons are confirmed as being among the dead.

The bodies of the foreigners will be sent home Tuesday or Wednesday, an Egyptian government spokesman said.

World leaders condemnation

The US President, Bill Clinton, has called for extra efforts to combat terrorism.

The British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, said he was horrified by what he called a sickening act of violence, while his German counterpart, Klaus Kinkel, described it as repugnant and cowardly.

Other world leaders including Morocco's King Hassan, Russia's Boris Yeltsin and Israel's Benyamin Netanyahu expressed their outrage at the attack and sympathy for the victims' families.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak argued the murders could have happened anywhere

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