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Terrorists kill 9 tourists in Cairo attack

September 18, 1997
Web posted at: 7:53 a.m. EDT (1153 GMT)

CAIRO, Egypt (CNN) -- Gunmen attacked a tourist bus in one of Cairo's busiest squares Thursday, killing at least nine tourists, including seven Germans, and wounding 19, police said.

Witnesses said at least three gunmen opened fire and tossed what appeared to be hand grenades or Molotov cocktails at buses parked outside the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square.

One bus was completely gutted in the midday attack; minutes later, a second bus caught fire, witnesses said.

Free-lance journalist Alphonso Van Marsh reported from the scene

Mass confusion in the heavy tourist area
icon 352K/29 sec. AIFF or WAV sound
Recent history of terrorist attacks and Egypt's tourist industry
icon 384K/31 sec. AIFF or WAV sound

"It is complete chaos here," said Alphonso Van Marsh, a free-lance journalist at the scene. "There's just mass confusion."

An official in the office of museum director Mohammed Salah said, "A terrorist has shot some people here. The situation is very bad."

The attack comes amid a five-year campaign of violence by Muslim extremists seeking to overthrow the government and install strict Islamic rule. It also comes at the start of Egypt's winter tourist season.

Shortly after the attack, state security police -- armed with assault rifles -- cordoned off the area. Frightened tourists fled from the famous museum where King Tutankamen's treasures are housed.

Witnesses said police exchanged gunfire with three gunmen. They said one attacker was pummeled by police and onlookers who mobbed him. The Interior Ministry said three attackers were in custody and referred to them as "terrorists," the word the government usually uses when referring to Muslim militants. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

An Indian businessman with an office across from the museum said he heard sporadic gunfire for about 35 minutes as police pursued the attackers. He said he saw two tourists who were bleeding taken away by police.

More than 1,100 people have been killed during the five-year campaign of violence, including tourists, police officers and minority Coptic Christians.

In April 1996, gunmen opened fire on Greek and Australian tourists who were about to board a bus outside Cairo's Europa Hotel, near the pyramids. Eighteen Greeks died, and 16 Greeks and an Egyptian were wounded.

 
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