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Luxor massacre
Djeser-Djeseru (Hatshepsut’s Temple), the location of the attack
Location Deir el-Bahri, Egypt
Date 17 November 1997
Weapons Automatic firearms, knives
Deaths 62 (not including attackers)
Non-fatal injuries
> 26
Suspected perpetrators
splinter group of al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya[1]

The Luxor Massacre was the killing of 62 people, mostly tourists, on 17 November 1997, at Deir el-Bahri, an archaeological site and major tourist attraction across the Nile River from Luxor in Egypt.

It is thought to have been instigated by exiled leaders of Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya, an Egyptian Islamist organization, attempting to undermine the July 1997 "Nonviolence Initiative", devastate the Egyptian economy[2] and provoke the government into repression that would strengthen support for anti-government forces.[3] However, the attack led to internal divisions among the militants, and resulted in the declaration of a ceasefire.[4] In June 2013 the group denied that it was involved in the massacre.[5]


Deir el-Bahri is one of Egypt's top tourist attractions, notably for the spectacular mortuary temple of 18th-dynasty female pharaoh Hatshepsut known as "Djeser-Djeseru."

The attackEdit

In the mid-morning attack, six gunmen from the Islamic Group and Vanguards of Conquest massacred 62 people.[6] The six assailants were armed with automatic firearms and knives, and disguised as members of the security forces. They descended on the Temple of Hatshepsut at around 08:45. They killed two armed guards at the site.[6] With the tourists trapped inside the temple, the killing went on systematically for 45 minutes, during which many bodies, especially of women, were mutilated with machetes. They used both guns and butcher knives.[6] A note praising Islam was found inside a disemboweled body.[7] The dead included a five-year-old British child and four Japanese couples on honeymoon.[8][9]

The attackers then hijacked a bus, but ran into a checkpoint of armed Egyptian tourist 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.[10]


Four Egyptians were killed,[11] including three police officers and a tour guide. Of the 58 foreign tourists killed, 36 were Swiss,[12] ten were Japanese, six were from the United Kingdom, four from Germany, and two were Colombians.[7] The six gunmen were killed by law enforcement.[12]


Following the attack, President Hosni Mubarak replaced interior minister General Hassan Al Alfi with General Habib al-Adly.[13]

The tourist industry in Egypt in general and in Luxor in particular was seriously affected by the resultant slump in visitors and remained depressed until sinking even lower with the September 11 attacks in the United States in 2001, the 2005 Sharm el-Sheikh attacks, and the 2006 Dahab bombings.

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However the massacre marked a decisive drop in Islamist terrorists' fortunes in Egypt by turning public opinion overwhelmingly against them. Spontaneous demonstrations against the terrorists broke out in Luxor almost immediately, demanding action by the government and leading to a visit by Mubarak a few days later.

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Organizers and supporters of the attack quickly realised that the strike had been a massive miscalculation and reacted with denials of involvement. The day after the attack, al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya leader Refa'i Ahmed Taha claimed the attackers intended only to take the tourists hostage, despite the immediate and systematic nature of the slaughter. Others denied Islamist involvement completely. Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman blamed Israelis for the killings, and Ayman Zawahiri maintained the attack was the work of the Egyptian police.[14][15]

In June 2013 Egypt's former president Mohamed Morsi appointed Adel el-Khayat as governor of Luxor; El-Khayat is a member of the Building and Development Party, the political arm of al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya.[16] He resigned less than a week later.[17]

See alsoEdit


  1. "In free Egypt, Jihad leader says time for gun is over". 18 March 2011. Retrieved 2 May 2014. 
  2. "Fearing the worst". 5 May 2005. Retrieved 2 May 2014. 
  3. Wright, The Looming Tower, (2006), pp.256-7
  4. El-Zayyat, Montasser, "The Road to al-Qaeda", 2004. tr. by Ahmed Fakry
  5. "Egypt's Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya denies involvement in 1997 Luxor massacre". 19 June 2013. Retrieved 2 May 2014. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Napoli, James J.. "Egyptian Government Continues to Blame West for Ills After Luxor Massacre". Washington Report. Retrieved 2 May 2014. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 BBC Documentary on the Luxor Massacre, 2002
  8. "At Ancient Site Along the Nile, Modern Horror". 19 November 1997. Retrieved 2 May 2014. 
  9. "At a Swiss Airport, 36 Dead, Home From Luxor". 20 November 1997. Retrieved 2 May 2014. 
  10. Wright, Lawrence, The Looming Tower, (2006), p.258
  11. "Terror in Egypt". ADL. January 1998. Retrieved 2 May 2014. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 "Switzerland closes inquiry into Luxor massacre". 10 March 2010. Retrieved 2 May 2014. 
  13. Rana Muhammad Taha; Hend Kortam (11 February 2013). "The Rise and fall of Mubarak". Retrieved 2 May 2014. 
  14. Wright, The Looming Tower, (2006), p.257-8
  15. "Egypt tries to understand the Luxor massacre". BBC News. 1 December 1997. Retrieved 2 May 2014. 
  16. "Egypt's president appoints 17 new governors, including 8 from his Muslim Brotherhood". AP. 17 June 2013. Retrieved 2 May 2014. 
  17. "Controversial new Luxor governor quits". Al Jazeera English. 23 June 2013. Retrieved 2 May 2014. 

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 25°44′18″N 32°36′23″E / 25.73833°N 32.60639°E / 25.73833; 32.60639

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