EGYPT'S ISLAMIC GROUP was on its last legs, which explains the act of desperation Monday in which terrorists from that group slaughtered 58 foreign tourists and four Egyptians in the Temple of Hatshepsut near Luxor.
Since members of the Islamic Group assassinated former President Anwar Sadat in 1981, Egypt's government had largely demolished it. Some 15,000 adherents have been arrested. Founding prophet Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman sits in prison in New York for inspiring the bombing of the World Trade Center. Six leaders imprisoned in Egypt appealed in July to end violence. Although attacks on foreigners in the early 1990s had reduced tourism, the $3 billion industry had revived recently. Some 66 alleged Islamic Group terrorists are on trial.
This was the context for Monday's murderous attack by a fragment of a movement on the ropes.
At a time of violence in the name of Islam in many countries, this act brought opprobrium from such other extremists and terrorists as the state radio of Iran, the PLO, Hamas, Hezbollah and the Islamic Group of Lebanon. It isn't what the others do or the message they want to send. The statement claiming credit for the Islamic Group of Egypt said the intent was to hold hostages to bring the release of Sheik Omar, but witnesses saw no evidence of an attempt to do anything but kill.
This slaughter of tourists shows what a handful of terrorists can accomplish. As an effort to depress Egypt's most valuable industry, it will succeed for at least a year. It might intimidate a million tourists, mostly Europeans, away from the ancient monuments on the Nile this winter. The government of President Hosni Mubarak is back to Square One in trying to rebuild international confidence in safety there.
This is the same terrorism that has assassinated Egyptian officials, murdered Coptic Christians for their faith and wounded Egypt's Nobel laureate in literature, Naguib Mahfouz. These true believers would tyrannize the vast majority of Egypt's people, whom they consider too secular. They would impoverish all by zTC cutting bonds with the outside world.
The Islamic extremist terrorists of Afghanistan, Iran, Egypt and Algeria differ from each other on points of doctrine. But all make war on compatriots and co-religionists. The government of President Mubarak deserves full cooperation and sympathy in dealing with this evil, which does not represent Egypt but would enslave Egyptians, which does not ennoble Islam but blasphemes it.
Pub Date: 11/19/97