Terrorist attack at Luxor on 10 November

The reporting from Egypt about the actual events on Monday seems to have been very patchy. This is mostly because it is difficult to piece together what actually happened.

The following is the closest we have been able to get to the facts about what actually happened. It is built up from talking to the inspectors there and to other local people who saw some of it for themselves.

At about 9 am, a group of gunmen, disguised as police, entered the temple at Deir el Bahari, following two large groups of tourists. Two stayed at the entrance, while the other four followed the groups up the first ramp and on to the terrace. Once there, they opened fire on the tourists, while the two at the gate shot the tourist policemen and a guard.

What happened next becomes less clear, but it seems that at some point they tried to make off to the south, using an Isis Travel bus, either down the main road, or possibly across the sand. While the shooting at the temple was going on, word went out that the police were needed, and those in the Valley of the Kings were apparently seen running over the hills towards Deir el Bahari. And word seems to have been passed that the gunmen were heading south, towards the Valley of the Queens.

At this point, the roads around the Valley of the Queens, Deir el Medina and Medinet Habu were closed off. The gunmen seem to have abandoned the bus at some point and run off on foot, possibly because they saw the police had closed in around them, or possibly because the police actually started shooting at the bus. In either case, this was probably the shooting we heard from the Deir el Medina direction.

Some reports have spoken of a two to three hour gun battle with the terrorists. We certainly didn't hear anything of that kind, but we may only have heard the final denoument. The local people were so outraged by what had happened that, it is said, they had to be restrained from tearing the bodies of the gunmen to pieces and burning the bodies.

The road to Deir el Bahari was left open to traffic, presumably to enable the emergency vehicles to get there as quickly as possible. Ambulances were going up and down to the site for most of the rest of the day, taking people to the small hospital near the Seti temple for first aid or over the river. Otherwise, all was relatively quiet.

On the following day, it was pretty well business as usual. Tourist buses were around, including visits to Deir el Bahari on their itineraries. President Mubarak flew in, and for that period we had soldiers on the top of Sheikh Abd el Qurna. After his departure, they too were gone.

The local population is in deep shock, and this is of a genuine nature. Obviously, there is the concern that the tourist trade is going to be ruined; but beyond that, people are appalled that this could happen not only in their country, but in Luxor, and carried out by Egyptians.

Helen Strudwick