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Correspondent Friday, 6 December, 2002, 15:43 GMT
Massacre in Luxor
The Temple of Queen Hatshepsut in Luxor
The tranquillity of the temple was shattered
On 17 November 1997, 58 tourists were murdered in Luxor, Egypt. Correspondent joined relatives from three families of victims as they returned to try to find out why and how it happened.

The attack took place at the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, one of Egypt's best known tourist sites.

Temple of Queen Hatshepsut
There was only one armed guard at the temple
No resistance was met by the six young gunmen as they unleashed a hail of bullets.

The tourists had little chance of escape.

Four Japanese honeymoon couples, 36 Swiss and three generations of a British family from Yorkshire including a five year old girl, were among the victims.

Egypt quickly drew a veil over the incident, blaming a local Islamist gang, all of whom died after a police chase near the scene.

A Swiss inquiry concluded that the attack was carried out by Islamist fundamentalists wanting to damage tourism and destabilise the Egyptian economy and Government.


But a number of questions about the attack remained unanswered.

Professor Hans Schoepfer
Hans Schoepfer absorbs himself in his art to ease the pain
Who was behind the attack? What drove the young gunmen to such brutality? Why was the temple unprotected? Should tourists have been warned that they were being targeted?

Answers to these questions were crucial to all the victims' families.

Swiss Professor Hans Schoepfer lost his sister Rosalie and his niece Cecile.

He said: "There were so many people in this temple that saw the shooting. And of course I started thinking about my relatives.

Jean Dawson
Jean Dawson, a grandmother still in grief
"How did they spend their last moments? It made me feel sad to think how short life is for all of us."

After the massacre he gave up his university career, turning to his art as a way of confronting his pain.

Shoko Yamashita, from Japan, lost her sister Satoko and brother-in-law who were on their honeymoon.

She was curious about the attackers' motives: "How can some people value their religious faith and at the same time come up with such extreme ideas?"

She has been unable to erase the pain, and has had treatment for trauma.

Shoko Yamashita
Shoko Yamashita organised a petition for the memorial
Jean Dawson and John Laycock, relatives of the Turner family from Yorkshire, lost three generations in the attack: 24 year-old air-hostess Karina, her mother Joan, and the youngest victim, Karina's daughter, five-year-old Shaunnah.

Jean said: "I've met some very lovely Egyptian people.

"Just ordinary people that are very kind, very warm.

"It seems a world away from the terrorists that did the massacre."

First suicide attacks

With hindsight, they had become victims of one of the first suicide attacks by Islamist militants.

The exiled militants responsible for the massacre were leading members of Egypt's largest Islamist group Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya.

They had trained at Osama Bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan.

General Al Banna, Governor of Luxor
General Al Banna said the report was still in Cairo
In Cairo, the victims' families have been pressing, in vain, for the right to see the official report into the massacre.

This report should have contained facts that would have answered many of their questions.

But they feel they have been stonewalled by the authorities.

They have, however, had more luck in their attempt to erect a memorial in the centre of Luxor.

In a meeting with the governor of Luxor, the families' request was granted.

The families say such a gesture is a step in the right direction. But they would prefer answers to their questions.

Despite the Al Gama'a al-Islamiyya group renouncing violence completely, the Luxor massacre heralded a much more deadly force - based outside Egypt.

Its devastating impact has since been felt in New York, Washington, Bali and now Kenya.

Massacre in Luxor, Sunday, 8 December 2002 on BBC Two at 2100 GMT

Executive Producer: Alison Rooper
Reporter: Phil Day
Editor: Karen O'Connor
Deputy Editor: David Belton
Online Producer: Andrew Jeffrey

Jean Dawson
"Shaunnah was so looking forward to the trip"
Prof Hans Schoepfer
"These people have their own culture - it's just different from ours"
Shoko Yamashita
"I'm guessing the most important thing for people here is their faith"
Massacre in Luxor

See also:

13 Mar 01 | Middle East
14 May 99 | Middle East
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