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Monday, November 17, 1997 Published at 11:03 GMT

Despatches: Middle East
Jim Muir
From Cairo

There's been an attack on a tourist bus near the city of Luxor in southern Egypt. Unconfirmed first reports said that a number of tourists were killed and others wounded and that one of the attackers was also killed. Islamic extremists are being blamed for the attack, the first of its kind at Luxor, a major tourist destination. Our Middle East correspondent JIM MUIR reports from Cairo:

"Accounts of the incident remain sketchy, but all reports agree that a tourist bus was attacked near the Valley of the Queens on the west bank of the Nile, a major tourist attraction, because of the many ancient temples and tombs in the area. Several reports said the bus was hijacked by gunmen, and that there was then a shootout with the security forces, with ensuing casualties. Unconfirmed reports said most of the tourists were Japanese and Spanish. The attack, for which Islamic extremists are already being blamed - although there's been no admission of responsibility so far - was the first of its kind in the Luxor area, although a British woman was shot dead in her car there two years ago. It will be very unwelcome news indeed for the Egyptian government. In September, when nine German tourists were killed when their bus was attacked outside the Egyptian museum in Cairo, the authorities dismissed it as an aberration carried out by a deranged gunman and his brother, both of whom have since been sentenced to death. Tourism picked up again, especially in Luxor, where the opera 'Aida' was staged among the temples, with much official publicity. The attack staged there will undoubtedly be a major blow to Egypt's vulnerable tourism industry. In the early years of the struggle between thegovernment and Islamic militants, tourists became a definite target for the extremists. But in recent years, such attacks had apparently been tapering off."

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