- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 1, 2005

CAIRO — A suicide bomber struck at foreign tourists near Egypt’s most famous museum yesterday, while his veiled sister and his girlfriend opened fire at a tourist bus in attacks that left all three terrorists dead, officials said.

The bombing injured seven persons, including four foreigners near the Egyptian Museum, a key tourist attraction brimming with the treasures of the pharaohs.

The casualties were three Egyptians, an Israeli couple aged 60 and 55, an Italian man aged 26 and a Swedish man aged 28, the Interior Ministry said.

In the bus attack in south Cairo, the first in living memory by women in Egypt, the two veiled women fired three shots at the coach’s back window, the ministry said. No one in the bus was hit, but shattered glass lay on the road.

Two bombings targeting tourists in the past seven months have had little effect on Egypt’s tourism industry, which brought in $6.6 billion in 2004, a record year with more than 8 million tourists. But economists say a string of attacks in close succession could hit Egypt hard.

Health Minister Mohammed Awad Tag el-Din said the injured had superficial wounds caused by nails in the bomb. Most were in good condition, except for the Swede, whose wounds were described as “moderate.”

Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif told reporters that at least one of the wounded might need surgery.

The terrorist who blew himself up was identified as Ehab Yousri Yassin, a fugitive member of the group that planned an April 7 bombing that killed three tourists in a Cairo bazaar. He had jumped from a bridge into the square below, where he detonated the bomb.

“They found his papers, and the identity card of the perpetrator of the Azhar [bazaar] incident,” the Interior Ministry said.

Other security sources said someone had thrown a bomb from a bridge that passes behind the museum.

The veiled assailants, identified by the ministry as the bomber’s sister, Negat Yousri, and his girlfriend, Iman Ibrahim Khamees, attacked on the Salah Salem highway, a main artery through the south of the city.

The ministry said Miss Yousri then shot and wounded her companion and committed suicide. Miss Khamees died in a hospital of her wounds.

Witnesses saw shattered glass, blood on the street, a pistol and what appeared to be a pair of black gloves of the type worn by veiled women.

Police later arrested two other fugitive members of the bomber’s group, identified as Ashraf Said Youssef and Gamal Ahmed Abdel-Aal, the ministry added.

Two groups — the Mujahideen of Egypt and the Martyr Abdullah Azzam Brigades — said on an Islamist Web site that their members carried out the attacks. It was not possible to verify their authenticity, and some details of their claims did not appear to match witness accounts.

Behind the museum, the body of the dead bomber lay in a pool of blood under the bridge.

The treasures of the Egyptian Museum include the contents of the tomb of the Pharaoh Tutankhamen. Thousands of tourists visit the museum every day. The bomb exploded behind the building, however, away from the entrance.

The April 7 bombing was the most serious in the Nile Valley since 1997. But in October last year, a group led by a Palestinian attacked Red Sea resorts frequented by Israelis, killing 34 persons.

“It seems like we are talking about a small group of family and friends carrying out these attacks,” said Diaa Rashwan, an analyst of violent Islamist groups. “These people have no real organization. They are motivated by anger. It’s difficult for the security people to find out much about them.”

Muslim Brotherhood deputy leader Mohammed Habib said in a statement that the organization, the largest and most influential Islamist group in Egypt, condemned the attacks.

But he added: “The security authorities must behave properly in such cases without exceeding the law, and must not use this as a pretext for going slow on political reform.”

The Egyptian government faces an unusually active political opposition movement demanding constitutional change and an end to emergency laws that have been in place since 1981.

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