CAIRO — In an unusual daytime attack near Egypt’s most visible tourist attraction, gunmen shot and killed two police officers on Wednesday, a few hundred yards from the pyramids of Giza, security officials said.
Tourism is a vital source of foreign currency for the government, and a pillar of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s plan to revive Egypt’s battered economy.
The years of political upheaval that followed the 2011 uprising against President Hosni Mubarak have sent tourism revenues plummeting to record lows, but the government has recently said that the industry was rebounding.
The gunmen, on a motorcycle, fired at the officers at a security checkpoint on the road leading to the pyramids, according to Gen. Mohammed Farouk, the head of the Giza investigations department. The victims included a senior officer, and a third officer was wounded, he said.
Militant attacks targeting members of the state’s security forces have become frequent in Egypt over the last two years, a consequence of the violent turmoil that followed the military ouster of the Islamist government in 2013.
But Wednesday’s shooting appeared to be the first so close to one of Egypt’s heavily guarded tourism sites.
A statement by the Egyptian Embassy in Washington issued a day before the shooting highlighted figures that the embassy said showed a doubling of tourism revenues during the first half of the current fiscal year over the comparable period in the previous fiscal year, and a surge in visitors from the United States — after years in which American tourists largely avoided Egypt.
Arrivals from the United States in the first quarter of 2015 increased 30 percent over the first quarter of last year, the statement said.
“Political stability has returned a sense of safety and normalcy to Egypt, and as a result, tourists are coming back to experience several millennia of ancient cultural heritage and breathtaking geography,” the statement said.
Egyptian officials have portrayed a continuing militant insurgency as largely contained to a portion of the Sinai Peninsula that is all but sealed off by the military. But the militants have shown a continued ability to conduct devastating, large-scale assaults on Egyptian soldiers, while carrying out smaller, semiregular attacks in Cairo and other cities.
Egypt’s public fight against the militants has helped ease its strained relations with Western allies troubled by Mr. Sisi’s crackdown on Islamists and other political opponents.
On Wednesday, in a sign of the warming ties, Mr. Sisi made his first official visit to Germany, despite criticism of his human rights record by German lawmakers. The critics include the speaker of the Parliament, Norbert Lammert, who called off his planned meeting with Mr. Sisi before his arrival, citing “systematic persecution” of opposition groups with mass arrests and an “incredible number” of death sentences handed down by Egyptian courts.
In a joint appearance with Mr. Sisi, Chancellor Angela Merkel also emphasized that Germany opposed the death penalty, saying, “Under no circumstances, even with regard to terrorist activities, should people be sentenced to death.”
She also stressed, however, the need to keep talking to countries like Egypt, noting its prominent role in the fight against terrorism. Highlighting Egypt’s importance to German business interests as well, Siemens, the German industrial giant, announced on Wednesday that had it signed a $9 billion order — its largest ever — to supply Egypt with wind power and natural gas plants.
In an apparent effort to stave off any other discordant notes during Mr. Sisi’s visit, the Egyptian authorities prevented a prominent human rights activist from traveling to Germany this week. The activist, Mohamed Lotfy, who is the executive director of the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, said he had been scheduled to attend a round-table discussion on human rights at the German Parliament.
On Monday, as Mr. Lotfy tried to catch a flight to Frankfurt, en route to Berlin, he was stopped at passport control at Cairo International Airport, he said.
After waiting for more than an hour, he said, he was taken to meet a plainclothes security officer, who asked for Mr. Lotfy’s phone number and address before telling him that he would not be able to travel for “security reasons.”
Mr. Lotfy said he had asked about the nature of the security concerns. The man, who did not give his name or say what agency he represented, said, “You will know at the right time.” He promised to call Mr. Lotfy the next morning to arrange a meeting, and said he was keeping Mr. Lotfy’s passport for the time being.
By Wednesday afternoon, no one had called him yet, Mr. Lotfy said.
Merna Thomas reported from Cairo, and Alison Smale from Berlin. Kareem Fahim contributed reporting from Istanbul.
This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service – if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.
(via NY Times)