Late Friday night several armed jihadists entered the Bella Vista Hotel in Hurghada, Egypt, wounding three tourists before being neutralized by police forces.
According to reports, the assailants were all carrying knives and one was wearing an explosive belt. Although no terrorist group has formally claimed responsibility for the attack, according to eyewitnesses the terrorists were carrying the black Islamic State flag bearing white writing reproducing the Islamic creed, or Shahada, and shouting “Allah hu Akbbar.”
Local police shot and killed one of the attackers, who has been identified as Mohamed Hassan Mohamed Mahfouz, a 22-year-old student from Giza. They seriously wounded another, who is being treated in the hospital. Officials said that the attackers were aiming to kidnap tourists.
Hurghada (pictured above) is a popular destination for Egyptian tourism, located on the seaside coast of the Red Sea. The Bella Vista is a four-star, multi-storey hotel with a large swimming pool at the end of the waterfront and is known to be frequented almost exclusively by tourists from Northern Europe and Russia.
Authorities reported that three tourists, two Austrians and a Swede, suffered knife wounds in the attack and were subsequently hospitalized. The Egyptian Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou is traveling to Hurghada Saturday to visit the injured tourists.
“On Friday night unknown men infiltrated the Hotel Bella Vista in Hurghada through the restaurant overlooking the street and threatened guests with knives,” said a Interior Ministry spokesman.
Besides the two assailants taken down by the police, some sources have reported that there was a third man who managed to escape by sea, but so far police have denied this claim.
This is the second jihadi attack in Egypt in as many days.
On Saturday morning the Islamic State propaganda network Amaq News claimed responsibility for a separate assault Thursday against a bus of Israeli tourists near the pyramids at Giza. ISIS said it was targeting “a tourist bus carrying Jews.”
A gang of youths reportedly hurled “fireworks and birdshot” at the bus and at police guarding the Three Pyramids Hotel near the pyramids of Giza in Cairo. No one was injured in the attack.
Egyptian tourism has taken a beating in recent years and is down to $7.2 billion from a pre-revolutionary peak of $12.5 billion in 2010. Analysts suggest that the jihadists attacks seek to harm the government by driving away foreign investment and tourism.
ISIS claimed responsibility for bringing down a Russian passenger plane on October 31 after it took off from the airport of Sharm el-Sheikh, another Egyptian seaside resort, killing all 224 people on board.
Since then, important tourist operators have eliminated packages to Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada, and Russia itself cancelled all flights to and from Egypt.
According to Minister Zaazou, revenues from the Egyptian tourism sector declined a further 10 per cent in 2015, and the country is incurring losses of $260 million per month because of the attack in Sharm.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome