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Christian Tourists Die in Bus Blast as Egypt's Islamist Insurgency Surges

Christian Tourists Die in Bus Blast as Egypt's Islamist Insurgency Surges

A bomb exploded in a tourist bus in Egypt Sunday, killing three South Korean Christians and the Egyptian driver. Egypt's Islamist insurgency, which began after the military removal of President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood last year, has become a major threat to the country.

About 32 Koreans were traveling from St. Catherine's Monastery, an Orthodox and UNESCO World Heritage Site in Egypt's south Sinai, to neighboring Israel when an explosion ripped through the bus about 250 yards from the border on Sunday afternoon.

It is believed that Moses received the Ten Commandments from God around the site of this monastery, which is officially known as "Sacred Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount Sinai."

The Koreans traveling in the bus were from a church in the South Korean city of Jincheon. The attack wounded at least two dozen other people.

"This is a terrorist act that was carried out with an explosive device," Reuters quoted an army source as saying.

"This was a despicable act of cowardice directed at innocent tourists," a spokesman for interim President Adly Mansour stated. "And let me be quite clear: The perpetrators will find no hiding place and we won't rest until we have brought all those who planned, funded and carried out this atrocity to justice."

The Egyptian government didn't specify which group could have been involved, and nor has any militant outfit claimed responsibility for the attack, but the government often uses the word "terrorists" to refer to militant Islamists.

Sunday's attack comes as former President Morsi had a court appearing on charges of conspiring with groups outside Egypt for terrorist activities.

The explosion suggests that militants might be changing their strategy from targeting Egyptian military and police forces alone to also "soft targets" such as tourists to hit the nation's economy and tourism industry.

Kamal Habib, a founding member of Islamic-Jihad, which raged a similar insurrection in the 1990s but eventually renounced militancy, told The Washington Post that the new development in the ongoing insurgency is more of a challenge to the government and the state's authority than there ever was before. The attack "is likely the beginning of a new phase" of the conflict between militant Islamists and the state, he said.

"The militants in Sinai are now looking for soft targets, without entering confrontation with police and armed forces, who have taken precautions," Mustapha Kamel Al-Sayid, a professor of political science at Cairo University, told Reuters. "This is a cheap win for them without a high risk."

In a statement issued by its London media office, the Muslim Brotherhood denounced the bus attack. "The military-backed authorities have, once again, failed to uphold their duty of protection and care towards visitors and Egyptian citizens alike," the group said.

The Brotherhood operated underground until the fall of dictatorial President Hosni Mubarak after the 2011 uprising. Morsi was president from June 2012 to July 2013.

Egypt's Coptic Christians, who account for at least 10 percent of the total population of 82 million, have also faced numerous attacks by Islamists.