West German Woman At Hotel When Rampage Begins With PM-Egypt-Police Riot
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ Elke Gross’s pleasure trip to a luxurious hotel at the foot of the Great Pyramids became a nightmare when the hotel was attacked by renegade security forces.
″It was so awful, they had big sticks and stones and they destroyed the lobby, they also burned up nearly all the cars in the parking lot,″ Mrs. Gross said in a telephone interview today.
Mrs. Gross, a West German resident of Cairo, said mutinous members of the Central Security Forces in their distinctive black uniforms attacked the Mena House Oberoi hotel late Tuesday night.
Armed forces were called in to quell them, but clashes spread throughout Cairo by early morning and a general curfew was clamped on the city of 12 million at 1 p.m. (6 a.m. EST).
The government-run Middle East News Agency said the troops, who are under the command of the Interior Ministry, mutinied after hearing ″false rumors″ that their period of enlistment was being extended from three years to four.
MENA quoted a ″responsible source″ as saying the army was called in to ″protect Egyptians and foreigners and protect buildings and private property.″
Police sealed off the roads leading to the Pyramids, located on the western edge of Greater Cairo. Residents reached by telephone from the area said they could hear sporadic gunfire, but the shooting was gradually dying down.
Mrs. Gross said she had been going to meet a friend who was a tour guide at the Mena House Oberoi when the violence began.
″I had just entered the hotel and asked the receptionist where the cafeteria was. Then the lights went off, and I could hear a lot of noise. When it was over and I came back down to the lobby, the receptionist was in tears and the lobby was a complete mess,″ Mrs. Gross added.
As she spoke by telephone from her residence in the southern suburb of Maadi, the sound of automatic rifle gunfire could be heard in the background.
″As I was trying to leave, some people told me to take the Pyramid road. But it was chaotic, it seemed like the whole street was on fire. Troops were looting, burning and shooting. As I was passing by a gas station, it blew up, it was very bad,″ Mrs. Gross said.
An official of the hotel said an estimated 700 tourists remained stranded there, some of them camping in the car park.
Two nearby hotels, the Jolie Ville and the Holiday Inn were very badly damaged after they had been looted by the mutineers. A Swiss diplomat said most of the tourists in the two hotels had escaped and were hiding in nearby private residences. He said he had heard of no casualties.