U.N. team is ambushed in Egypt, leaving 5 dead

September 18, 1994|By New York Times News Service

CAIRO, Egypt -- Gunmen believed to be Muslim militants opened fire yesterday on United Nations aid officials and their police escort on a road in southern Egypt, killing five people.

The attack, the deadliest attributed to militants since March, came as the U.N. officials and four police officers were traveling north from Luxor in separate cars to open a clinic near the town of Qena. Both cars were hit, and the four officers and an Egyptian worker for UNICEF were killed.

UNICEF was withholding the name of the slain staff worker, but the Interior Ministry identified him as cameraman Labib Ibrahim. An assistant project manager, also an Egyptian, suffered head injuries, said UNICEF spokeswoman Nagwa Farag.

The UNICEF representative in Egypt, Baquer Namazi of the United States, and his deputy, Vanessa Tobin of Britain, were traveling in the UNICEF car but were not hurt.

Interior Ministry officials said they suspected that the attack was the work of the militant Islamic Group, which has been waging a violent campaign for more than two years to topple the secular government of President Hosni Mubarak.

The gunmen, who ambushed the cars near the village of Khuzam, 320 miles south of Cairo, took the police officers' weapons from the lead car and escaped into the surrounding farmland. The dead officers included a police captain, his driver and two conscripts.

The campaign of violence by Muslim militants in Egypt has chosen as its targets police and government officials, as well as foreign tourists, Coptic Christians and intellectuals. More than 400 people have died in such violence since the campaign began.

The attack ends a lull that began several months ago after the police captured or killed several high-ranking leaders of the Islamic Group and shut down many of its cells in a series of raids.

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