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Police: Egyptian temple attackers may have committed suicide

November 27, 1997

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ Prosecutors are investigating whether the Muslim extremists who gunned down 58 foreign tourists last week killed themselves as well, police said Wednesday.

Egypt’s Interior Ministry has claimed police killed the six gunmen in a shootout after the massacre.

The attack at the Temple of Hatshepsut, near the southern Egyptian city of Luxor, was the deadliest in a five-year campaign by militants seeking to replace Egypt’s secular government with strict Islamic rule.

Police denied reports immediately after the attack that five gunmen killed each other in a mass suicide. Sources said then that one wounded guerrilla was slain by his fellow radicals to prevent his capture, and that police killed the other five.

Now, prosecutors are questioning witnesses claiming that a police officer found the bodies of the five militants in a cave, police officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

One witness claimed that the officer arrived after hearing gunfire from inside the cave, where the militants had fled. The witness said the officer was carrying a handgun too small to kill all five militants.

Police sources said coroners were examining the militants’ bodies to determine if they died from bullets from police weapons or from their own automatic rifles.

Police have identified one attacker as Midhat Ahmed Abdel Rahman, who they say was a well-known Muslim militant trained in Afghanistan. The opposition Al-Wafd newspaper said photographs of the other assailants have been sent to prisons where jailed militants might be able to identify them.

The newspaper said photos also were being shown to owners of police uniform shops where investigators believe assailants bought the disguises they wore to gain access to the temple.

Security officials said, meanwhile, that the Interior Ministry has worked out a list of 300 names of Muslim militants who are wanted by Egypt for their roles in attacks against government officials in the past five years. Some of them have already been sentenced to death in absentia.

The officials said many of those militants live in Britain, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Pakistan and Afghanistan and that Egypt will ask for their extradition.

The Interior Ministry announced Wednesday that six officers, including Luxor’s police and chief and his deputy, would face a disciplinary hearing over possible negligence in the case.

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