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Gunmen Kill at Least 18 in Attack at Egyptian Hotel

April 18, 1996

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ Gunmen shouting Islamic slogans opened fire on a group of Greek tourists in front of a Cairo hotel today, killing at least 18 of the tourists and wounding 14 other people.

At least three men, shouting ``God is great,″ opened fire with automatic weapons and pistols as the 88 members in the tour group were walking to a bus outside the Europa Hotel, which is near the pyramids, said Interior Ministry spokesman Mahmoud el-Fishawy.

Eighteen of the tourists were killed and 13 were wounded, Fishawy said. An Egyptian man was also wounded.

``This is a terrible attack. It is the worst shooting that we have had,″ said Fishawy, whose ministry is in charge of the police.

The attackers wore black leather jackets and fired at both the tourists and at the bus they were boarding, said bellboy Sayed Zaghloul.

``Suddenly we saw people falling,″ Zaghloul said. ``If the bus had not been there, it would have been worse.″

The gunmen and a driver escaped in a van, witnesses said.

The front of the eight-story hotel was punctured with bullet holes, and windows were shattered on all sides of the bus. Pools of blood could be seen on the hotel steps, along with sandwiches and water bottles that the victims had been carrying.

In Athens, Greece, Mistakidis Tours confirmed that the group was with the agency. Employee Vassilis Trizonis said the group left before the Greek Orthodox holy week that ended with last Sunday’s Orthodox Easter.

He said the group, which consisted mostly of elderly Greeks, had visited Jerusalem and monasteries in Egypt and was to return to Greece on Saturday.

A hotel employee reached by telephone denied reports that a group of Israeli Jews was staying there. He said, however, that a group of Arabs from Israel was among the guests. He refused to give his name.

Gamal Mahmoud Hussein, a bus driver, told the official Middle East News Agency that one gunman with a pistol stood across from the hotel while three others with automatic rifles opened fire. The man with the pistol apparently was the driver.

``I tried to chase after them when they were getting into a microbus, but one of the terrorists starting aiming his weapon at me so I had to stop,″ he was quoted as saying. ``They got away.″

Egypt has been fighting an insurgency by Muslim militants since 1992, but for the last two years the attacks have been largely confined to southern Egypt. Before Thursday, more than 920 people had been killed, including eight foreigners slain while the rebellion was aimed at hurting Egypt’s tourism industry.

The militants want to overthrow the secular government and create an Islamic state.

The last major attack on tourists in Cairo was Dec. 27, 1993, when gunmen attacked a tour bus with explosives and gunfire, wounding eight Austrian tourists and eight Egyptian passersby.

The major movement behind the insurgency _ al-Gamaa al-Islamiya, or the Islamic Group _ claimed responsibility for that attack.

Update hourly