Al-Qaeda-inspired nutjobs Ansar Beyt al-Maqdis are claiming responsibility for the bus bombing that killed four Koreans and one Egyptian and injured scores more at the Egyptian border crossing of Taba. From the Times of Israel:
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.
Ansar Beyt al-Maqdis (Champions of Jerusalem) have been very busy since the fall of Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Since the fall of Mohammed Morsi, they’ve focused largely on attacking the Egyptian police and military.
It should be noted that the attack coincided with the start of the third Morsi trial. No link has been demonstrated, though, and the Muslim Brotherhood’s Justice Party has condemned the attack.
The motives of the attack are yet unclear, but The Times of Israel speculates that the attack served two purposes:
“It is very hard for them to penetrate into Israel,” said Maj. (res.) Aviv Oreg, formerly the head of Al Qaeda and Global Jihad desk at the IDF’s military intelligence directorate. But for jihadist organizations in the Sinai Peninsula, this sort of attack is ”very sufficient in order to pinpoint that Israel is their target in their aspirations.”
More concretely, it targeted tourists on Egyptian soil. Last year, in the wake of president Mohammed Morsi’s ouster and the ongoing attacks in Sinai and the Egyptian mainland, tourist revenue in Egypt dropped by 41 percent. The $10 billion earned in 2012 dwindled to $5.9 billion in 2013, Reuters reported in January. This, the first attack against tourists since Morsi was pried from power, will further cut into the foreign cash flow. It will also push Egypt, and certainly the Sinai Peninsula, one more step in the direction of anarchy, the ecosystem in which terror thrives.
Egypt’s Al-Ahram points out that this was the first attack on tourists in Egypt since 2008, and that this could mark the beginning of a new phase in the militant campaign against the Egyptian government:
For Iman Ragab, a researcher at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies Centre, the attack represents a “new phase” in Egypt’s ongoing battle against terrorism, which has spiked following the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.
Until Sunday, however, all of the bomb attacks had targeted only security installations and personnel.
Rageb expressed her fear that Sunday’s attack might open the door for a wave of terrorism similar to the one that took place in the 1990s, when Egypt was rocked by recurrent militant attacks on tourist sites across the country, which severely crippled tourism and threatened security.
It’s still unclear how the bombing was carried out—some say it was a suicide bombing, others say a guy chucked a bomb into the bus, still others say it was a remote-controlled device. I’m sure we’ll get a clearer picture soon enough.
In addition to condemning the attack, the Korean government is advising Koreans travelling in five countries—Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia—to leave. Why those five countries, I don’t know.
The Koreans were mostly members of Jincheon Central Church in Jincheon, Chungcheongbuk-do, to whom we offer our deepest condolences. They were in Egypt as part of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land planned to mark the 60th anniversary of the church. It’s not an especially big church, but it is one of the larger ones in the Jincheon area, and it does conduct missionary work in Korea’s migrant worker community. To mark its 50th anniversary it also sent missionaries to “Northeast Asia”—I’ll let you speculate what that means. One of the dead was reportedly a missionary from Jincheon active in Egypt, but the church says he had nothing to do with them, and at any rate, nothing’s been confirmed.
The Korean Foreign Ministry had placed travel restrictions on the Sinai and Gulf of Aqaba due to the deteriorating security situation there since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, although the curate of the church says he was unaware of this. The ministry has now placed a total travel ban on the Sinai and Gulf of Aqaba.