The 1997 Luxor Massacre
November 17, 1997……The Temple of Hatshepsut located in Deir el-Bahri,Egypt is one of the great archaeological attractions in all of Northern Africa. Tens of thousands visit annually giving rise to Egypt’s tourism. Buses heading for the temple itself were full. At 8:45am as many of the tourists descended deeper into the Temples courtyard, they were met by other visitors of the infamous archaeological site. 6 men disguised as security guards and armed with automatic rifles and knives engaged the foreigners who had lived abroad in such places as Great Britain, Japan and Switzerland. They opened fire upon the unsuspecting victims, as 4 gunmen perched atop the temple began their unwavering assault as if shooting fish in a barrel. Many eyewitnesses described how most of the victims, trapped on the raised terrace of the temple complexes middle courtyard were simply shot methodically one by one. Many of the tourists who tried to hide in the colonnades at the rear of the courtyard were hunted down and slain by men armed with knives who had butchered some of them even children and women.
The arriving security forces met the assailants and began exchanging gunfire, the surviving assailants shouted “allah akbar” and began chanting as they gleefully met their end by even propping themselves into the fuselage of rapid gunfire shot by the security guards and Egyptian police. The attackers then hijacked a bus, but ran into a checkpoint of armed Egyptian police and military forces. One of the terrorists was wounded in the shootout and the rest fled into the hills where their bodies were found in a cave, apparently having committed suicide together. The massacre left 62 people dead, with 26 injured. 36 were from Switzerland. 4 were couples on their honeymoon. Eyewitnesses described the macabre scene of decapitated flesh and bullet ridden bodies to investigators as something from a morbid horror film. Some of the victims included even babies as young as 2.
The Egyptian Islamic group, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, were found to have been responsible for the massacre after Egyptian investigators found leaflets in one of the dead suspects possessions. It called for the release of Omar Abdel-Rahman from U.S. prison. Rahman having been found guilty of plotting to blow up NYC monuments in 1995. It also had the following quote…”The depths of the earth are better for us than the surface since we have seen our brothers squatting in their prisons, and our brothers and families tortured in their jails” The Swiss Federal Police “later determined that bin Laden had financed the operation” Others denied Islamist involvement completely. Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman blamed Israelis for the killings, and Ayman al-Zawahiri maintained the attack was the work of the Egyptian police.