A suicide bomber blew himself up near Egypt’s ancient Karnak temple in the southern city of Luxor on Wednesday, security sources said, a possible sign that militants are shifting focus to target the country’s economic recovery.
Although officials said no tourists were wounded, the attack at Karnak is the second in just over a week on a major tourist site in Egypt, where tourism is a vital source of income and foreign currency.
Since the military toppled Islamist president Mohamed Mursi in 2013, militants have killed hundreds in a campaign targeting mostly police and soldiers.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who as army chief ousted Mursi after mass protests against his rule, has promised Egyptians he will revive an economy battered by turmoil since an uprising ended Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule in 2011.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which revived memories of 1997 when Islamist militants killed 58 tourists and four Egyptians at another temple nearby.
It took Mubarak years to stamp out an Islamist insurgency in the 1990s that targeted mostly tourists, members of the security forces and senior government officials.
Fears that militants, who have pledged allegiance to Islamic State, may shift focus toward tourism targets arose just over a week ago when gunmen on a motorcycle shot dead two members of Egypt’s tourism and antiquities police force near the Giza pyramids.
Security sources told Reuters that security had already been stepped up following the shooting near the Giza pyramids.
“Our investigations confirmed to us that those who are behind the terrorists want to target police and hit the Egyptian economy at the same time,” one of the sources said.
He said the militants wanted to “grab the world’s attention” by carrying out their attack to coincide with a pan-African trade conference in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, which the World Bank president and Sisi were attending.
“They knew there was an important conference in Sharm el-Sheikh,” the source said.
The Interior Ministry said in a statement on Karnak that three “terrorist elements” were stopped from passing a security cordon by security forces protecting the temple.
Two assailants were killed, one of them by detonating a bomb he was carrying. The third was wounded by gunshots to the head, the ministry said.