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Monday, November 17, 1997 Published at 13:25 GMT

Despatches: Africa
Jim Muir
From Cairo

A number of overseas tourists have been killed in an attack near a temple at Luxor in southern Egypt. The incident is being blamed by the authorities on Islamic extremists. Our Middle East correspondent, Jim Muir, reports from Cairo;

"Initial reports were confused both as to exactly what happened and to the extent of the casualties. But all accounts agreed that a group of gunmen opened fire on tourists near the temple of Hachepsut on the West Bank of the Nile near Luxor in southern Egypt. Several of the attackers were among those killed in the ensuing gun battle with security forces. The attack came out of the blue. It was the first of its kind at Luxor although a British woman tourist was shot dead in her car there two years ago. Luxor was being promoted by the Egytian authorities as a show case for tourism. The opera, Aida, was staged among the temples there just last month with much official fanfare to underline to foreign visitors that the country was safe. That was despite the attack in September on a tourist bus outside the Egytian museum in Cairo in which nine German tourists were killed as well as their Egyptian driver. That incident was dismissed by the authorities as an isolated action by a deranged man and his brother and not part of a pattern of attacks by Islamic militants. So the strike at Luxor, one of the country's most important tourist destinations is doubly bad news for the government. The organised Islamic militant groups which had targetted tourism as recently as eighteen months ago had apparently tacitly called off their campaign to drive visitors away. It remains now to be seen whether any group will admit responsibility for this new attack."

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