Security forces for the Egyptian government have raided three Islamist militant hideouts and killed 40 of them in response to an attack on a tour bus near the tourist town of Giza where three Vietnamese tourists and their Egyptian guide were killed.
The three raids killed “40 terrorists” in Giza and North Sinai, the statement from the interior ministry said about the coordinating raids on terror cells.
“A group of terrorists were planning to carry out a series of aggressive attacks targeting state institutions, particularly economic ones, as well as tourism… and Christian places of worship,” the ministry stated.
The government recovered a large number of weapons, bomb-making materials, and ammunition in the raids.
The roadside bomb blast on Friday night in Giza also wounded 11 other Vietnamese tourists, although no group claimed responsibility for the bombing, Islamic militants have tried to disrupt the tourist trade in the past, which is one of Egypt’s biggest boosts to their economy.
Vietnamese foreign ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang, while grateful for the support given to the victims by Egyptian authorities, called for swift justice.
“Vietnam is very angry and strongly condemns the terrorist act that killed and injured many innocent Vietnamese and has asked Egypt to soon open an investigation, chase and give harsh punishment to those who carried out these terrorist act,” she said in a statement.
Prior to the “Arab Spring” in 2011, tourist numbers had peaked the year before with over 14 million tourists to the country. After the Muslim Brotherhood attacked the Egypt Museum and fanatical Muslim clerics called on the Egyptian government to destroy the pyramids as “symbols of paganism,” those numbers plummeted. In 2016, the number of tourists fell to just over five million.
This latest attack took place in the heart of the tourist season, where the numbers have been coming back thanks to the government’s crackdown on Islamic terror groups. With the Coptic Christians of Egypt celebrating their Christmas, which they observe on January 7, the government fears even more attacks to target the long-suffering Copts who comprise between 16 -18 percent of the population of Egypt, about 9 million people.
The Islamic terrorists have attacked numerous buses and churches of the Copts as well as people traveling to their monasteries which, several are located in the desert region.
One of the issues is that the Egyptian police in the past have done little to nothing to stop the violence, often showing up (conveniently) just after the attacks or standing by and doing nothing to prevent them. In one case, refusing to prosecute Islamists who burned a Catholic church.
A good friend and colleague who has lived in the Middle East for many years and written about the plight of Christians there, Lela Gilbert, penned an article about the plight of the Copts, which can be read here.
Thirty of the terrorists were killed in two separate, simultaneous raids in Giza while 10 more were killed in the North Sinai. Although the government didn’t link these particular terrorist cells with the bus attack, they had to have had these particular targets under surveillance for some time, considering the quick timing of the raids after the bus attack.
The Egyptians launched these raids with hours of the bus bombing which happened at 1845 hours local time as the Vietnamese tourists were on their way to dinner at a restaurant.
The North Sinai has been a hotbed of Islamic terrorist activity since 2013, as terrorists with ties to the Islamic State (ISIS), claimed responsibility for attacks on tourist destinations. Back in February, the Egyptian Army launched a large-scale operation against Islamic terrorists named “Sinai 2018” to rid the Sinai of jihadists after the terrorists attacked a mosque in the peninsula killed more than 300 people. Since the inception of this operation, the army says that hundreds of suspected jihadists have been killed.
Having been to the tourist areas and museums of Egypt, the security there was largely a show of force and not particularly tight, however, things have changed in recent months as the government has tightened up their security protocols at those sites as well as at airports in the country.
With the tourist season in full swing, expect that trend to continue. If anyone is planning on visiting there during the height of tourist season, ensure you check with the American Embassy before and during your stay to keep abreast of any developments in the security situation there.
Photos: Author, Fox News