Egyptian bus bombing kills Korean tourists and driver

Photo: Egyptian bus bombing kills Korean tourists and driver / Arab World

South Korea voiced shock and outrage on Monday at the bombing of a tourist bus in Egypt that killed three of its nationals, and issued a travel ban for the Sinai region, the Guardian reported.

The bomb tore through the bus carrying 31 South Korean tourists and their guide near an Egyptian border crossing with Israel in south Sinai on Sunday.

"We are shocked and enraged at the terrorist bombing on the bus ... and strongly condemn the act," Seoul's foreign ministry said in a statement.

Three South Koreans - two men and a woman - were killed along with the Egyptian driver, the ministry confirmed. Another 13 were injured.

The tourists were all members of a church group from the central South Korean county of Jincheon who were on a 12-day trip through Turkey, Egypt and Israel.

"We believe that terrorism can never be justified under any circumstances and such inhumane and unethical acts should be weeded out by all means," the ministry said.

The South Korean ambassador to Egypt, Kim Young-So, told Seoul's MBN TV station that the bombing appeared to be a suicide attack.

"An Egyptian man in his 20s suddenly boarded the bus and detonated the bomb ... it appears to be a suicide bombing by a terrorist," Kim said.

Seoul issued a total travel ban on the Sinai region and the Gulf of Aqaba, while urging its nationals elsewhere in Egypt to take extra precautions or leave if possible.

It was the first attack on tourists since the removal of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi by the army in July sparked civil unrest and a spate of attacks across Egypt that have mainly targeted security forces.

The bomb exploded in the front part of the bus at the Taba border crossing with Israel, Cairo's interior ministry said.

The tourists had set off from Cairo and were waiting at the crossing to enter Israel when the explosion happened, it said.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

A bomb on a tourist bus in Egypt's Sinai peninsula killed at least two Korean passengers and the Egyptian driver on Sunday, army and security sources said.

The interior ministry said the bus was travelling from St Catherine's monastery, a popular tourist destination in the south Sinai, to nearby Israel when it was attacked. It did not state the cause of the blast, which wounded 20 people.

Two security sources said a bomb planted either inside or near the bus was used. "This is a terrorist act that was carried out with an explosive device," said an army source.

Al-Qaida-inspired Islamist militants based in the Sinai have stepped up attacks on security forces since the army chief, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, ousted the elected president Mohamed Morsi in July after mass protests against his rule.

If militants were behind Sunday's violence, it would mark a shift in strategy to attacking tourists and economic targets and not just police and soldiers in Egypt. Egypt's tourism industry, a pillar of the economy, has already suffered from political turmoil and street protests.

The tourism minister, Hisham Zaazou, said he was "very disappointed" by the attack, which revived memories of an Islamist insurgency in the 1990s.

"I hope this will be an isolated incident that will not reoccur, this is my wish. I'm reassuring that all the rest of the country is safe and secure and what happened can happen anywhere in the world," Zaazou said.

State television showed a photograph of the bus, its windows smashed and the roof partially torn off. Black smoke billowed from the site of the explosion on a palm tree-lined boulevard.

The blast came as Morsi appeared in court on Sunday on charges of conspiring with foreign groups to commit terrorist acts in Egypt.

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