A suicide bomber was behind a deadly blast that tore through a bus carrying South Korean tourists, killing at least four people, as it waited near an Egypt-Israel border crossing in Sinai, Egyptian security officials said.
The bombing yesterday was the first targeting foreign tourists in the Sinai in nearly a decade, raising fears that Islamic militants who have been waging a campaign of violence against security forces in the peninsula are now turning to attack tourism, a pillar of Egypt’s economy.
No one has claimed responsibility for the blast. But suicide bombings have been a hallmark of the al-Qaeda-inspired militant groups behind the nascent insurgency of the past six months, which has been focused in northern Sinai along the Mediterranean coast, away from the tourist centers on Sinai’s southern and eastern Red Sea coast.
The bus, carrying 33 South Korean tourists and two Egyptians, a guide and the driver, was waiting to cross into Israel at the border area of Taba when the blast took place.
The Egyptian driver and two South Koreans stepped out of the parked bus and went to the cargo hold. As they reboarded the bus, the bomber pushed in through the open bus door and detonated his explosives, Interior Ministry spokesman Hani Abdel-Latif said.
A badly burnt body at the site of the blast is now thought to belong to the bomber, he said. Egyptian forensic experts were at the site today to inspect the badly damaged yellow bus, but there was no word on their initial findings.
The blast killed the driver and three South Koreans and wounded at least a dozen other tourists on the bus, Egyptian security officals said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to talk to the press.
The Koreans were two guides and a tourist, the Korean news agency Yonhap reported, citing the Foreign Ministry in Seoul.
The tourists were Christians from the Jincheon Jungang Presbyterian Church who had saved for years to visit Biblical sites on the 60th anniversary of their church, Choe Gyu-seob, a curate at the church, told reporters. He said the bus was about to cross into Israel when the blast took place.