EGYPTIAN BUS BLAST INJURES TOURISTS
By Mike Burnard
At least 16 people were injured in a blast targeting a bus near Egypt’s Giza pyramids on Sunday 19 May, security sources said. There were no initial reports of deaths. Photographs posted to social media showed some people walking away from a bus whose side windows had been blown out. Ahram Online, a state-run news outlet, said that the bus had been carrying 25 tourists from South Africa and that most of the wounded were from that country. Later, South Africa’s foreign ministry said that three of its citizens were receiving medical treatment in Egypt and the rest would return home. (New York Times)
Terrorism in Egypt
Even though there were no immediate claims of responsibility for the attack, it replicated previous attacks on foreign tourists that were claimed by the Islamic State’s Egyptian affiliate and by other armed Islamist factions opposed to President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Four people – three Vietnamese tourists and an Egyptian guide – died in a similar bomb attack on a tourist bus in Cairo in December 2018.
This recent attack occurred close to a giant national museum that is under construction near the pyramids and is scheduled to open in 2020. It suggests that armed militants opposed to Mr Sisi were seeking to undermine his authority by hitting tourists at a time when he is planning a gala opening for the long-awaited institution.
Attacks on visitors at Egypt’s main tourist attractions are strategic ploys to cripple the economy by discouraging foreign tourists to visit the country. Since January 2018, there have been 38 terror attacks in Egypt that claimed the lives of 98 people and injured 126. Seven of these attacks took place in either Giza or Cairo.
Tourism in Egypt
The fact that radical groups in Egypt (such as the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic State) are notorious for targeting foreign tourists is strategically linked to the Egyptian tourism industry which, at its peak in 2010, employed about 12% of Egypt’s workforce and served approximately 14.7 million visitors to Egypt, providing revenue of nearly $12.5 billion. Tourism in Egypt contributed more than 11% of the national GDP and 14.4% of foreign currency revenue.
The country has intensified efforts to woo tourists back after a sharp decline in numbers following the political turmoil linked to the 2011 Arab Spring revolution. Tourism to Egypt’s Red Sea resorts, which had been spared the worst of the political upheaval, also fell dramatically following an explosion onboard a Russian plane over the Sinai peninsula on 31 October 2015, after departing from the Sharm el-Sheikh international airport. The explosion claimed the lives of all 217 passengers and seven crew members.
In 2017, Bloomberg said that Egypt had “shed its years of social and political unrest” and made the top 20 list of 2017 travel destinations. The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) figures of 2017 revealed that Egypt was one of the world’s fastest-growing tourist destinations for 2017: visitors to Egypt increased to 8 million from about 5.26 million in 2016.
Islamic extremists attacking the heart of Egypt’s economy is clearly a strategy to destabilise the Middle East’s most populous country and in doing so, to expand the reach of their own influence in the region. Egypt is too attractive a prospect, from a jihadi perspective, for radical Islamic groups to pass up.
FROM A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE
The key ‘currency’ that radical groups work with, and deeply depend on in the Middle East, is fear. The ultimate goal is not to attack a bus full of foreigners in an effort to kill a certain number of people – the goal is to create fear in the hearts of future travellers, to discourage tourists from spending foreign currency in Egypt, to impact the economy in a negative way and ultimately to destabilise the nation and create fertile soil for radical groups to ‘grow’ in.
The most effective response therefore in countering these acts of terror is not to accept the currency of fear, and for Christians to respond in obedience when called to visit the nation. Radical groups will only succeed when visitors succumb to fear. Those who endeavour to visit Egypt to pray, to witness, and to encourage believers – or even simply for tourism – should respond with boldness and obedience. Light is not afraid of darkness, and even though darkness can never overcome light, it will move in the moment that light fades.
- For Egypt’s leadership as they try to combat the terrorist threat
- For Christians to respond in obedience when called to visit nations that face security threats
- For believers not to succumb to fear