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1996: Greek tourists killed by Egyptian gunmen

Seventeen Greek tourists and an Egyptian tour guide have been killed by gunmen in Cairo.

Another 15 were injured, three critically, when the attackers opened fire on a group outside the Europa Hotel.

According to witnesses, four men with guns drew up in a white van and fired indiscriminately.

The Greek tourists were on an Easter visit of the Holy Land sites and had just arrived from Jerusalem.

They had just finished breakfast and were about to board a bus to the northern city of Alexandria when the massacre began.


"There were people lying dead outside the hotel and people injured on the floor crying and screaming"

Harry Poulianas, eye-witness

A Greek tour guide said had it not been for the fact that the coach provided some cover, many more would have been killed.

Harry Poulianas, a tourist who was standing by the coach, said he ran back inside the hotel under a hail of bullets.

"When I came out there were people lying dead outside the hotel and people injured on the floor crying and screaming," he said.

None of the hotel's six security guards was armed and a police patrol which had been posted in the area to protect tourists was withdrawn several months ago.

So far no group has admitted carrying out the attack but it is widely believed to have been the work of Islamic militants who are attempting to overthrow the secular Egyptian Government.

Before today's attack more than 920 people, including 26 foreigners, had been killed in political violence in Egypt during the past four years.

The last major attack on tourists was in 1993 when eight Austrians and eight Egyptian were injured when gunmen opened fire on a tour bus in Cairo.

In Context
The Islamic group, al-Gamaa al-Islamiya, admitted it was behind the attack on the Greek tourists.

It said they had been mistaken for Israelis.

In spite of increased security, attacks on tourists to Egypt continued.

Ten people were killed in September 1997 when a petrol bomb was thrown into a German tourist bus in Cairo.

In November of the same year 68 people were killed in an attack on tourists visiting a temple near the southern city of Luxor.

Egyptian authorities said they believed the Luxor attack was carried out by members of the al-Gamaa al-Islamiya group and financed by Osama Bin Laden.


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