CAIRO — Two German female tourists were stabbed to death while four other foreigners were wounded in an attack Friday at a hotel in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Hurghada, an Egyptian security official said.
The assault came just hours after a shooting near some of Egypt’s most famous pyramids outside of Cairo killed five policemen.
The motive behind the stabbing was unclear and the Interior Ministry said the attacker at the Red Sea resort was arrested immediately.
“We don’t know his motives yet, he could be crazy or perturbed — it’s too early to tell,” a senior interior ministry official told AFP.
Berlin confirmed the two women were German nationals. “We can now sadly confirm that two German tourists died in the attack at Hurghada,” a foreign ministry statement said.
A security official said the attacker, a man in his 20s dressed in a black T-shirt and jeans, wielded a knife and intentionally sought to attack foreigners.
“Stay away, I don’t want Egyptians,” the assailant had said in Arabic during the attack, according to the official.
Without taking any blame for what appears to be a major security breach, the Interior Ministry said the attacker had sneaked into the hotel by swimming from a nearby beach.
In the killings of the five policemen outside of Cairo, no group claimed responsibility for the attack but it bore the hallmarks of a smaller Islamic militant group known as Hasm that has been behind similar shootings in recent months.
Friday’s attacks are likely to further impact Egypt’s deeply struggling tourism industry — a pillar of the country’s economy that employs millions of people. The industry has suffered from political instability and a fragile security situation since the 2011 Arab Spring uprising.
The attacker in Hurghada, one of Egypt’s most popular beach resorts and diving centers, stabbed the tourists in the face, neck and feet, according to the security official.
Two German tourists died of their wounds while four tourists were wounded, including citizens of Ukraine and the Czech Republic, the official told The Associated Press.
Earlier, another official said that Ukrainians were killed and that the wounded included Serbian and Polish tourists. But in Belgrade, Serbia’s foreign ministry said no Serbian citizens were among the wounded. Later, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin tweeted that no Ukrainian citizens were among the victims in the Hurghada attack.
In Germany, the foreign ministry said that it “cannot rule out” that German citizens were among the victims, but stressed that it doesn’t yet have that information. The German Embassy in Cairo is in close contact with Egyptian authorities to clear that up, it added.
An emergency doctor at the al-Salam hospital in Hurghada declined to answer questions, only confirming that the wounded tourists were brought there. Both the security official and the doctor spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak to the media.
The contradictory information reflected the confusion in the immediate aftermath of the attack involving foreigners in one of Egypt’s most popular resorts.
In the attack on the policemen, gunmen riding on a motorcycle opened fire on a security vehicle patrolling a Giza village, next to some of Egypt’s oldest pyramids outside of the capital, Cairo, killing the five policemen, the Interior Ministry and officials said.
The deadly shooting — on the Muslim weekend in Egypt, when traffic is slower — heightened fears of what has become near-weekly attacks by suspected Islamic militants after a blitz attack left 23 troops dead in northern Sinai a week ago.
Egypt has been under a months-long state of emergency following a series of deadly church bombings in the spring that killed scores of Christians.
The village of Abusir in Badrashin, where the policemen were killed, is part of Greater Cairo. The policemen were part of the force tasked to guard the district of Saqqara, one of Egypt’s most popular tourist sites and host to a collection of temples, tombs and funerary complexes.
According to the ministry, the militants sprayed the policemen’s vehicle with machine-gun fire and fled the scene after one policeman returned gunfire.
However, a video widely circulated on social media appears to show the attackers faced no resistance. It shows them seizing the policemen’s weapons and radios and setting fire to the bodies after the shooting.
Authorities cordoned off the area and ambulances rushed to the site, located near the famous Step Pyramid of King Djoser. It is the oldest of Egypt’s more than 90 pyramids and the forerunner of the more familiar straight-sided pyramids in Giza on the outskirts of Cairo.
Friday’s attacks threaten a new blow to the country’s struggling tourism industry and economy. The year before the 2011 uprising, nearly 15 million tourists visited Egypt. Last year, the figure was at 5.3 million, according to official reports. In 2015, an Islamic State affiliate in Egypt downed a Russian plane over Sinai, killing all 224 passengers aboard.
Egypt has been rocked by deadly suicide bombings, drive-by shootings and other attacks since the 2013 military ouster of an elected Islamist president. The violence has been concentrated in the northern Sinai Peninsula, but attacks have spread to the mainland, including in the capital, where suicide bombers have struck churches and security headquarters.
The last time tourists were attacked in Hurghada was in January 2016, when two Austrians and a Swede were stabbed by two suspected militants, also at a hotel. They were only lightly wounded. Security forces shot both attackers, killing one and wounding the other before arresting him.
The Brotherhood won a series of elections in Egypt following the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Mohammed Morsi, a senior Brotherhood leader, became Egypt’s first freely elected president the following year.
Morsi’s brief rule proved divisive, however, and the military overthrew him in 2013 after mass protests against his rule. Authorities outlawed the Brotherhood a few months later, declaring it a terrorist group. An ensuing security crackdown on the group’s ranks has battered its leaders, who are either in prison or in exile, and its youth group became potential recruits for militant groups.
The Hasm, or “Decisiveness,” is a militant group that authorities have linked to the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. It has claimed responsibility for drive-by shootings and attacks that targeted police, military, judges and pro-government figures in the past.
Last week, Islamic militants killed 23 army personnel in a remote checkpoint in northeastern Sinai Peninsula. The IS in Egypt claimed responsibility for that attack — the deadliest assault on the military in the turbulent region in two years.
Coptic Christians have been a prime target of IS in Egypt, with more than 100 of them killed in the past few months alone. Egypt’s Christians account for about 10 percent of the country’s 93 million people.
The attacks have prompted the Coptic churches to suspend religious festivals and group tour trips to monasteries for the remainder of the summer.
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.