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Officials, media offer conflicting accounts of Hurghada hotel attack

At least two European tourists were injured in a Friday evening attack by armed assailants on a hotel in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada.

Conflicting reports have emerged about the specifics of the incident. Some official sources reported the injury of three European tourists in the attack, while others cited the injury of two tourists. The injuries were reported as not life-threatening.

A statement posted on the Interior Ministry’s official website said three Europeans – two Austrians and one Swede – were hurt in a knife attack at the Bella Vista Hotel. The statement added that two armed assailants had been neutralized – one shot dead and another wounded.

Different details emerged from other state-owned outlets, however, and yet more conflicting reports from the international and privately-owned local media.

The state-owned Nile News satellite TV channel reported that security forces responded to an armed attack on a hotel and “neutralized two terrorists.” Reading from her script, the TV anchor added: “Due to the vigilance of Egyptian security forces an attempted attack on a hotel in Hurghada was thwarted.”

In a phone-in, the Interior Ministry’s official spokesperson – Brigadier General Abu Bakr Abdel Karim – told Nile News that there were just two Europeans hurt, adding that they were citizens of Germany and Sweden.

He said the pistol used in the attack was a sound gun (starting gun), not an actual firearm. He dismissed reports of a suicide vest or explosive belt, but added that knives were used, indicating that the two European tourists may have been stabbed or slashed.

The brigadier general confirmed that one assailant died and the second was in a critical condition.

The Nile News correspondent in Hurghada City, however, had previously reported that “one of the armed assailants was gunned down and killed on the spot, while the second was wounded and later died of his injuries.”

The correspondent said two assailants opened fire on the hotel lobby and security forces neutralized both – one of whom allegedly wore an explosive-laden belt, while another brandished a pistol. The reporter added that a suicide belt intended for use in the attack was disabled. He added that “the failed armed attack took place in the hotel lobby.”

The correspondent said the nationalities of the injured tourists as Swedish and German. Both were reportedly rushed to hospital for treatment. The correspondent, citing hospital sources, said their injuries were not life-threatening.

The correspondent and the Interior Ministry spokesperson confirmed that a security cordon and strict security measures were imposed around the hotel. Police reinforcements, sniffer dogs and criminal investigators were reportedly deployed to scene, while security forces were said to have blockaded some roads in the area.

BBC News, meanwhile, reported that a Danish and a German tourist were injured in an armed attack on a hotel in central Hurghada. The BBC said that armed assailants opened fire at the entrance of the hotel and that eyewitnesses claimed that they approached the hotel from the Red Sea shoreline.

A definitive account of Friday’s attack has yet to be delivered, and no group or organization has yet claimed responsibility.

The attack in Hurghada came a day after a group of 15 unidentified gunmen reportedly fired birdshot and fireworks outside the Three Pyramids Hotel on Haram Street in Giza. According to the Interior Ministry, the attack was aimed at policemen outside the hotel and caused no injury.

Once a mainstay of the Egyptian economy, the tourism industry has taken a sharp decline since the 2011 revolution. Cultural tourism, such as visits to monuments in Luxor and Aswan, was hit particularly hard.

Until recently, Red Sea resorts like Hurghada and Sharm el Sheikh had proved relatively resilient, with a steady stream of sun-seeking tourists from Eastern and Northern Europe keeping the industry afloat.

In October, an airplane crash in the Sinai desert killed 224 people, most of them Russian and Ukranian tourists returning from vacations in Sharm el Sheikh. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.

While Egypt’s investigating team said there was no evidence to support claims that the aircraft was brought down by terrorists, foreign governments including Russia and the United States have said they believed terrorists were responsible for the crash. Countries including Russia, as well as individual airlines like British Ariways, EasyJet and Turkish Airways, suspended flights either to Sharm el Sheikh airport or to Egypt as a whole. Egypt’s tourist minister estimated that flight bans alone will cost the country’s tourism industry LE2.2 billion per month.

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