Sunday, February 16, 2014

16-Feb-14: As the Sinai turmoil escalates, Israel-bound tour bus explodes in terror attack

The Taba Hilton Hotel [Image Source: Wikipedia]
The jihadist chaos and carnage that plague Egypt's Sinai Peninsula exacted fresh lives this afternoon. 

A tour bus carrying some 32 Korean Christian pilgrims, having started its journey in Cairo, passed through the ancient Greek Orthodox monastery of St. Catherine in central Sinai (we know it better in Israel as Santa Katarina) and then the coastal town of Nuweiba and was on its way to Eilat when an on-board bomb exploded just before the travelers reached Taba and the border crossover point to Israel. (Reuters has video footage.)

According to Times of Israel

Initial investigation indicated that the bomb was planted under the driver’s seat of the tourist bus... The bomb was detonated by remote control, as the bus waited near the Taba Hilton hotel to obtain permission to cross into Israel. Security arrangements at the crossing are such that the terrorists would not have been able to carry out the attack at the Israeli side of the border or inside Israel, security sources said Sunday night without elaboration.
The destroyed tour bus [Image Source]
In the minutes after the explosion, the Israeli news media showed photos of a long line of Magen David Adom ambulances waiting on Israel's side of the border. Now we know that there were some two dozen of them, but their services were rebuffed. As the Times of Israel reported
Egypt refused Israeli offers of medical assistance for the tourists... Three Korean tourists and the Egyptian bus driver were killed in the bombing, and at least eight passengers were seriously injured. The bomb was placed under the driver’s seat and detonated by remote control as the vehicle neared the crossing into Israel.
Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, a terrorist organization said to be an al-Qaeda affiliate, took credit right away. These are the same Salafi jihadists who have already "conducted dozens of attacks in North Sinai, as well as a handful in the Egyptian mainland" ["The Strategy of Egypt's Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis", David Barnet, February 10, 2014] and claimed to be behind the rocket attacks on the Israeli resort city of Eilat two weeks ago. There's little reason to expect the mayhem they are causing to come to an end soon, even as the Egyptian military's counter-terrorism measures remain in full force. 

Nor is there much reason to expect certain mainstream news channels to use the word "terror" in its coverage of the death and destruction the terrorists sow. The closest they get in tonight's BBC report ["Sinai attacks: Deadly bombing hits Egypt tour bus"] of the lethal Taba attack is in their repeated resort to the word "militants". The story's more or less the same at the New York Times ["Bombing of Tourist Bus Kills at Least Three in Sinai"].
Israeli emergency vehicles and crews lined up at border, but
Egyptian authoritiss refused to allow them in [Image Source]

At The Guardian, they're considerably less coy. An analytic piece there, "Egypt faces new threat in al-Qaida-linked group Ansar Beyt al-Maqdis" two weeks ago says the Sinai jihadist group
displays an affinity for al-Qaida, and the proficiency of its attacks suggest some level of external training. But until Ayman Zawahiri, al-Qaida's leader, mentioned "our people in the Sinai" in an audio message on 24 January, there had been no confirmation that al-Qaida recognised Sinai jihadists. "It really caught my attention," said Barnett. "It supports the view that there are foreign fighters in the Sinai, and it's a message from al-Qaida that your cause is being recognised by us and foreigners are likely coming to aid you."
We wonder how South Korea's public opinion is dealing with the way its victims could have been treated by some of the most experienced and effective first responders anywhere... but weren't because of the decision by the Egyptian authorities to prevent Israeli ambulances and crews,  ready at the border within minutes of the terror attack, from crossing into Egypt. No doubt there will be some lofty political explanations, but the families of seriously injured loved ones now being transported to who-knows-which desert town clinics might not find them terribly persuasive.

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