Egypt’s largest Muslim militant group claimed responsibility Saturday for the attack that killed 18 Greek tourists near the pyramids, but said it had been meant for Israeli tourists to avenge Israel’s bombing in southern Lebanon.
Al-Gamaa al-Islamiya, or the Islamic Group, also warned that “Jewish interests” in Egypt would be hit until Israel halts its assault in Lebanon. It pledged more attacks “in coming days” and repeated warnings for tourists not to come to Egypt.
“This operation was in revenge against the children of monkeys, pigs and tyrants (the Jews) for the blood of the martyrs who have fallen on Lebanese land,” said a statement signed by al-Gamaa sent to a Western news agency in Cairo.
Also Saturday, Interior Minister Hassan el-Alfy demoted three top police officials and suspended 13 policemen, and sources said this was in response to a security breakdown in Thursday’s attack.
The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said 16 police were assigned in the neighborhood of the Europa Hotel near the Pyramids but that only one policemen - who was unarmed - had shown up for duty before the shootings.
Three attackers opened fire on Greek tourists outside the hotel as they prepared to board a bus. Eighteen Greeks died and 16 others and an Egyptian were wounded.
Police said Saturday that more than 250 suspected militants had been rounded up since the attack in an effort to find the gunmen.
The al-Gamaa statement also accused the government of “living in an illusion” that Egypt’s revolt by Islamic militants had been put down.
Al-Gamaa has been blamed for most of the attacks during the rebellion aimed at ousting the government and turning Egypt into an Islamic state. Before Thursday, eight tourists were among the more than 920 people killed in the violence.
Police had said they were investigating whether the gunmen mistook the victims for Israelis, and the statement said al-Gamaa had monitored the Europa Hotel because it was believed to host Israeli groups.
The statement said al-Gamaa had information that Israeli tourists were to board a bus Thursday morning and was “surprised after carrying out the operation that the Jewish group was changed to a Greek group.”
“This is one of the security measures by Egyptian security forces to protect the lives of Jews,” it said. “If they had taken these same procedures for other groups of tourists, this operation would not have been carried out against the Greek group.”