A tourist bus in the Egyptian town of Taba near the Israeli border was struck by an explosion today that killed at least three people and wounded more than a dozen. The targeted bus, which was carrying tourists who had recently been at the famous St. Catherine’s monastery in central Sinai, was preparing to cross into Israel.
At least two South Korean tourists as well as the Egyptian bus driver were killed, according to Reuters. “Almost all 33 passengers on the bus were wounded by the explosion, with 12 suffering serious injuries,” the Associated Press reported. The exact cause of the explosion has yet to be determined, and the attack has thus far gone unclaimed.
Egyptian officials told the Associated Press that they believe the explosion was caused by “either a car bomb or a roadside bomb that was detonated by remote control.” Security sources told Reuters that the explosive device “was planted either inside or near the bus.” Meanwhile, South Korea’s ambassador suggested the attack was a “suicide bombing.”
Following the attack, the Taba border crossing between Israel and Egypt was closed, AFP reported.
Today’s attack appears to be the first to directly target tourists since the overthrow of Mohammed Morsi. In 2004, 2005, and 2006, suspected jihadists carried out a number of attacks in traditional tourist destinations, including Sharm el Sheikh and Dahab.
Since July 3, there have been more than 305 reported attacks in the Sinai Peninsula, most of which were carried out against Egyptian security forces and assets, according to data maintained by The Long War Journal. A good number of these attacks, including the Nov. 20 car bombing that killed 11 Egyptian security personnel, have been claimed by Ansar Jerusalem (Ansar Bayt al Maqdis). On Jan. 26, Ansar Jerusalem released video of its fighters using a surface-to-air missile to take down an Egyptian helicopter operating in North Sinai. Five Egyptian soldiers were killed in the attack.
Attacks by Sinai-based jihadists, Ansar Jerusalem specifically, have also taken place outside North Sinai. On Sept. 5, the jihadist group used a suicide car bomber in an assassination attempt in Nasr City on Egypt’s interior minister, Mohammed Ibrahim. A month later, an Ansar Jerusalem suicide bomber unleashed a blast at the South Sinai Security Directorate in el Tor, which killed three security personnel and injured more than 45. On Oct. 19, the Sinai-based jihadist group targeted a military intelligence building in the city of Ismailia in another car bombing. And on Nov. 19, the group claimed responsibility for the shooting attack on Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Mabrouk, a senior national security officer, in Cairo. In late December, an Ansar Jerusalem suicide car bombing attack outside the Daqahliya security directorate in Mansoura killed over a dozen people and injured over 130 more. Most recently, Ansar Jerusalem took credit for a series of bombings in Cairo, including a car bombing at the Cairo Security Directorate, on Jan. 24, 2014, that left at least six people dead. On Jan. 28, the group said its fighters were responsible for the assassination of an aide to Egypt’s Interior Minister in Cairo.
Since February 2011, gas pipelines in the Sinai have been struck by explosions at least 19 times, according to data maintained by The Long War Journal. Ansar Jerusalem has taken responsibility for nearly all of these attacks. On Jan. 19, Ansar Jerusalem claimed a recent gas pipeline bombing in the Sinai and warned the army and those cooperating with it that the group’s fighters would continue to target their economic interests in response to army operations in the Sinai that have destroyed homes as well as farms, among other offenses.