The attack on a tourist bus near the Taba border crossing was a “cowardly act aimed at innocent tourists,” an Egyptian presidential office spokesman said Sunday.
The Egyptian presidency called the attack a “despicable act of cowardice” and vowed to bring the culprits to justice, the Associated Press reported.
Three Korean tourists and the Egyptian bus driver were killed in the bombing, and at least eight passengers were seriously injured. The bomb was placed under the driver’s seat and detonated by remote control as the vehicle neared the crossing into Israel.
Officials said the tourist bus had arrived at Taba from the ancient Greek Orthodox monastery of St. Catherine in central Sinai. The bus, filled with 32 Korean Christian pilgrims, had started its journey in Cairo, passed through St. Catherine, and was on its way to Eilat when the bomb exploded shortly before it reached the border
No Israelis were among the casualties, an Israeli police spokesman said.
Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, an al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist organization, reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack, according to various Arabic-language media outlets.
The group said on Twitter that it would continue to attack Egypt’s economy, tourism and its military commanders, Israel Radio reported.
The attack was widely condemned by officials and political figures in Egypt, including members of the Freedom and Justice Party of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis is reportedly holed up in the mountainous center of the arid peninsula, an area the Egyptian military has been loath to approach in its ongoing battle with terror groups in the increasingly turbulent Strip.
The Sinai-based al-Qaeda-linked group was responsible for a handful of terror attacks throughout Egypt and for several Grad rockets launched at Eilat over the past month from across the border.
Egyptian military authorities in the Sinai declared a state of heightened alert and were searching the area along the bus’s route for tracks belonging to the perpetrators of the bombing.
In 2004, a bomb blast at a Hilton Hotel in Taba frequented by Israelis killed 31 people. The hotel, which houses a casino, is about 100 meters from the border.