Thursday,19 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1251, (18 - 24 June 2015)
Thursday,19 October, 2017
Issue 1251, (18 - 24 June 2015)

Ahram Weekly

A shrewd driver

A taxi driver helped thwart last week’s attempted suicide bomb attack at Karnak Temple, reports Ahmed Morsy

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Security forces foiled a terrorist attack on 10 June at Karnak Temple in Luxor thanks to a taxi driver who unwittingly drove the assailants to the temple.

Haitham Meraie drove the two militants to the targeted site where they met with a third party. On the way to the temple, Meraie suspected something was wrong about his two customers and reported them to security forces following their arrival at the temple’s parking lot.

“Someone stopped me and asked me to drive these two persons to Karnak Temple. On the way, both of them were talking in a language I didn’t understand,” Meraie told the media, adding that their skin was dark brown and their hair was long.

“I didn’t feel comfortable and my suspicions were confirmed following our arrival. I tried to open the trunk to take their bags out but I was surprised when they shouted at me and prevented me from carrying them. A third person, speaking Arabic, was waiting for them at a cafe near the temple,” Meraie said.

“After I left them I headed to the security force stationed to protect the temple, explaining to them my fears and describing what they looked like,” he added.

Meraie was honoured by Interior Minister Magdi Abdel-Ghaffar for his bravery. “I know that every citizen has a national duty to perform — to save the homeland, citizens and even tourists. Thank God I managed to uncover their crime and report them to the police,” Meraie said.

According to eyewitnesses, the three men — a suicide bomber and two gunmen — sat in a cafe and drank lemon juice waiting for a tourist bus to arrive. Before they could carry out the attack, a police officer approached them and asked them to open their bags. At that moment, the suicide bomber ran a few steps away and blew himself up while the remaining two exchanged fire with the security forces.

The Interior Ministry said in a statement that its forces narrowly prevented a massacre of tourists at Karnak Temple. The attackers were trying to break through a security cordon at the entrance of the temple when they were prevented by police deployed to safeguard the complex, the statement said.

Following a confrontation, one of the attackers detonated an explosive device he had in his possession in the temple’s car park. He was killed in the blast outside the temple.

Another assailant was shot dead by security forces while the third was seriously wounded during an exchange of gunfire. The Interior Ministry and the Antiquities Ministry said the attack caused no casualties among visitors or security forces. Eyewitnesses said two workers, one in the parking lot and another in a tourist bazaar, were injured in the blast.

Karnak Temple, located on the east bank of the River Nile on the site of the ancient city of Thebes, is one the most visited tourist attractions in Egypt after the Giza Pyramids.

The Health Ministry said the injured suspect received two bullets to the head and is in critical condition. “He is in a coma and in intensive care,” Health Ministry official Nahed Ahmed told AFP.

“He absolutely cannot be interrogated in his current state. However, we are doing our best to save his life because Egypt needs him to find out who is behind the attack,” Ahmed added.

An Interior Ministry source told Al-Ahram Weekly that the hospital where the suspect is being treated is under heavy security surveillance. “The life of the wounded suspect is precious in order to find out who is behind the attack. Hence, we are closely monitoring his condition while the hospital is heavily secured,” the source said.

“Regarding the two dead men, DNA tests are underway to identify them,” he said.

Though no group claimed responsibility for the attack, security experts believe that those behind the raid are jihadists who belong to Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis, a terrorist organisation.

The Ministry of Tourism increased security measures at tourist sites following the attack, Minister of Tourism Khaled Rami said in a ministerial statement.

“We continue to take every possible measure to ensure that no harm comes to anyone visiting Egypt,” said Rami.

Last week’s terrorist attack was the first of its kind in Luxor in 18 years. In November 1997 Islamist militants armed with automatic weapons killed 62 tourists at the Temple of Hatshepsut in Luxor’s Valley of the Queens.

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