CAIRO — Police said they averted a "massacre" after foiling a suicide bombing and gun attack on Wednesday on one of Egypt's most popular ancient attractions, in a rare assault on the country's vital tourism sector.
Egypt has been shaken by several attacks claimed by jihadists since the army toppled the democratically-elected government two years ago, but the incident in the southern city of Luxor was a rare assault targeting holidaymakers in a country which depends on tourism for more than a tenth of GDP.
Police said two attackers died and another was seriously wounded near the Karnak temple in Luxor, a popular site close to the famed Valley of the Kings.
No tourists were hurt in the mid-morning incident and visitors were kept inside Karnak's ruins, an antiquities ministry official said.
The incident unfolded after a taxi carrying two passengers attempted to enter the parking lot and was stopped by a policeman, Tourism Minister Khaled Ramy said in a statement.
Police asked to search the trunk, where they found two large bags that made them suspicious, said a Luxor police general.
When asked to open the bags, one of the men jumped out of the car, ran away and detonated his explosives-rigged vest.
In the ensuing confusion, the other passenger emerged from the car and, joined by an accomplice who had come in on foot, pulled assault rifles from the bags and started shooting.
The police responded, killing one and seriously wounding the other.
Health ministry official Nahed Mohamed said two civilians and two policemen were wounded in the shootout, but not seriously.
Police said the taxi driver was not a suspect.
'Would have been a massacre'
"If they had managed to enter the temple, it would have been a massacre," said the police general, as 19 fully-loaded rifle magazines were found in the bags and there were 604 tourists were in the temple at the time of the incident.
"We have enhanced security measures in place at all our sites and we continue to take every possible measure to ensure that no harm comes to anyone visiting Egypt," Ramy said.
No group had yet claimed responsibility for the attack. — AFP