​Luxor terror attack: ‘Change in IS strategy- soft target course’

Police and people stand near the scene of a foiled suicide attack in Luxor, Egypt, June 10, 2015 (Reuters / Stringer)
An attempted suicide bombing of the Luxor temple in Egypt is a hammer blow for the Egyptian tourism industry which has just begun to get back on its feet and needs foreign investment and tourists, Hugh Miles, Middle East specialist and journalist told RT.

Security forces in Egypt have foiled a terror attack at a popular tourist destination at the Karnak temple in Luxor on Wednesday. Police opened fire to stop the attackers. One was shot dead, while another died when his explosive belt detonated. The third was wounded and arrested. Officials say at least four people were injured in the shooting including two security officers.

RT:Who do you think is behind this attack? Luxor is a very popular tourist destination.

Hugh Miles: The finger of suspicion has to point at the terrorist group, Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, which has recently pledged allegiance to Islamic state. The reason for that is because the Egyptian authorities have been fighting a war with Ansar Bait al-Maqdis for the last few years mainly in Sinai, but also there has been a number of terrorist attacks of this nature in the last few weeks and months which have been linked to them.

RT:Why choose Luxor as a target, do you think? Is it to undermine Egypt's tourist business?

READ MORE: Suicide car bomber attack near Luxor temple tourist site in Egypt

HM: It is a soft target of course, it represents perhaps a change in strategy by the Islamic State if they are responsible, or by Ansar, because although just a few days ago there was a targeting of the pyramids, and there were two policemen killed. There have not been attacks on tourist sites like this for really many years. Luxor was the site for terrible attack in 1997 when about 60 tourists were shot dead. But since then Luxor has been pretty peaceful. So this is another hammer blow for the Egyptian tourist industry, which has just begun to get back on its feet. And it is one of the weak spots of the Egyptian authorities because they need foreigners, they need foreign investment, they need foreign currency, they need tourists, they need foreign expertise. So it really hits the Egyptian authorities were it hurts.

RT:The police opened fire against the attackers. Does that indicate the authorities are expecting attacks like this in such public places?

HM: The reports so far indicate that police managed to stop a much larger atrocity. It seems the Egyptian police, although someone apparently has died, did a good job stopping things from getting worse. But of course the Egyptian police are on the lookout for these kind of attacks because Egypt is fighting a war in Sinai and that has been a long running low level insurgency with bombs going off inside major cities like Cairo, pretty much not on daily, but weekly basis, mainly targeting the security services. So what’s different here is that it appears to be targeting foreigners and that is really a significant development.

RT:In March in Tunisia, museum visitors were attacked. Just how dangerous are North Africa's popular tourist destinations?

HM: As a result, many fewer tourists are coming to Egypt, and the ones who do come tend to stay on the Red Sea coast in the resorts where the security is very tight and there is a ring of steel around Sharm el-Sheikh, for example, where tourists can go diving and enjoy the Red Sea. But the cities are obviously much harder to protect… [including] the center of Luxor that can’t really be cut off or secluded in any kind of security way - this makes it very vulnerable.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.