Saturday 19 August 2017

Egypt hotel attackers 'raised flag of IS' before stabbing European tourists

Cleaners try to clean blood stains near the entrance to Bella Vista Hotel in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada, Egypt, January 9, 2016. Two armed assailants attacked a hotel in the Egyptian Red Sea resort town of Hurghada on Friday, wounding three foreign tourists, Egyptian officials said
Cleaners try to clean blood stains near the entrance to Bella Vista Hotel in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada, Egypt, January 9, 2016. Two armed assailants attacked a hotel in the Egyptian Red Sea resort town of Hurghada on Friday, wounding three foreign tourists, Egyptian officials said
Police and security are ramped up outside a hotel where two attackers opened fire in the Egyptian Red Sea resort town of Hurghada, Egypt, January 8, 2016. Two assailants armed with a gun, a knife and a suicide belt attacked a hotel in the Egyptian Red Sea resort town of Hurghada on Friday

Three European tourists who were stabbed at a Red Sea resort in Egypt were only lightly wounded and are in stable condition, hospital officials said.

The victims - identified as Austrians Renata and Wilhelm Weisslein, both 72, and Swede Sammie Olovsson, 27 - suffered shallow wounds, a spokesman said.

Police and security are ramped up outside a hotel where two attackers opened fire in the Egyptian Red Sea resort town of Hurghada, Egypt, January 8, 2016. Two assailants armed with a gun, a knife and a suicide belt attacked a hotel in the Egyptian Red Sea resort town of Hurghada on Friday
Police and security are ramped up outside a hotel where two attackers opened fire in the Egyptian Red Sea resort town of Hurghada, Egypt, January 8, 2016. Two assailants armed with a gun, a knife and a suicide belt attacked a hotel in the Egyptian Red Sea resort town of Hurghada on Friday

Two suspected militants attacked the three at a hotel in Hurghada late on Friday. Security forces shot both assailants, killing one and wounding the other before arresting him.

An Islamic State affiliate claimed another attack on Thursday at a hotel in Cairo, near the Pyramids, but no one was injured.

Egypt has been battling an insurgency based in the northern Sinai peninsula that grew following the 2013 military overthrow of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi.

The Interior Ministry said that in the Hurghada attack, two men armed with knives and pellet guns attacked the tourists in a restaurant at the front of the seaside, four-star Bella Vista Hotel.

Jan-Eric Olovsson, the 64-year-old father of the Swedish victim, told the Swedish Expressen newspaper they were having dinner in the restaurant when the attackers stormed in.

"Everything went really fast. We sat there and ate and then they showed up," he said. "I thought they came from outside. I myself had the gun pointed at me three times, and Sammie was stabbed with the knife."

He said his son was stabbed four times in the neck but "did well" because of his physical strength.

"I told him to lie still," he said, recalling how his son lay in a pool of blood. "I got up a few times and when I saw it was clear, I ran out on the street and tried to get hold of an ambulance."

He said another woman eating in the restaurant was also wounded.

Shortly after the attack, Sammie Olovsson updated his Facebook profile, saying he was "lucky" to have deflected the knife when the attacker tried to stab him in the chest. He said the knife cut some muscles in his neck but no arteries or nerves, and he would be able to leave the hospital on Saturday.

Egypt has been struggling to revive its tourism industry after years of unrest stemming from the 2011 uprising that toppled long-time autocrat Hosni Mubarak. The apparent bombing of a Russian passenger plane over Sinai last year, claimed by IS, led to widespread flight cancellations, dealing a major blow to the industry which is one of the country's main earners.

The other victims were also stable enough to be discharged on Saturday, Nile Hospital chairman Reda el-Naggar said.

The Olovssons' trip was organised by one of Sweden's largest tour operators, Apollo. The company's head Peter Browall said guests were given the option of relocating after the attack.

"Some have decided to do so. Not all have. This is done based on individual dialogues we have with them," he said.

Hurghada is "a small destination for Apollo Sweden", Mr Browall said. He could not provide any figures, but said interest in Egypt had dropped following recent attacks.

Zainab Feili, a young Swede who survived Friday's ordeal unharmed, described a scene of chaos. "Everybody just ran. We hear shoot. Everybody cries. It was awful," she said.

Mohammed Beram, a retired military officer living nearby who rushed to the scene to help, said the attacker who was killed was wearing an explosives vest.

Later on Saturday, gunmen killed two police officers in Cairo.

An Interior Ministry statement said the two were shot on their way to work in the Giza district. It said police were deployed to the scene to investigate the shooting and search for suspects.

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