CAIRO, Jan 8, (AFP): The Islamic State group claimed Friday to have staged an attack on an Israeli tourist bus in Cairo a day earlier which officials described as mere vandalism that caused no casualties. IS said a “security detachment” had targeted a “tourist bus carrying Jews” and that there were “killed and wounded in the ranks of the Jews and hotel security forces”. But officials and witnesses said Thursday that a gang of youths hurled fireworks and fired birdshot at a bus and police guarding the hotel without hurting anyone.
There was no reference to Jews, but to Arab Israelis, who were staying at the Three Pyramids Hotel. A security official said about 40 of them were inside waiting to board a bus when the attack occurred. The interior ministry said unknown assailants had gathered outside the hotel and targeted police guarding it, who fired back. It added that one of the attackers was arrested. Hotel employee Yasser Fakhreddin said the group “threw fireworks and fired birdshot at the glass facade of the hotel as well as the windows of an empty bus waiting to pick up the Arab Israeli tourists”.
An AFP photographer said bits of the facade and the bus’s windows had been broken. The IS statement, published online, claimed the attack was in response to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s call “to target the Jews everywhere”. In an audio message released on December 26, Baghdadi pledged to attack Israel, saying IS has “not forgotten Palestine for a single moment”. Egypt, which has fought several wars with Israel, is one of only two Arab nations, along with Jordan, to have signed a peace treaty with the Jewish state. The country has been roiled by mainly jihadist violence since the army ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013. The attacks have largely focused on security forces in reprisal for a fierce crackdown on Morsi supporters.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian branch of the jihadist Islamic State group on Thursday said it had bombed a pipeline that carries gas to Jordan and to a major industrial zone in north Sinai. Security sources confirmed that attackers set off explosive devices under the pipeline close to Al-Midan village in the north of the peninsula. They said the blasts did not cause any casualties.
North Sinai is a bastion of the “Sinai Province” group, the Egyptian affiliate of IS. In a message posted on Twitter and signed by “Sinai Province”, the jihadists claimed responsibility for the attack. “By the name of God, not a drop of gas will reach Jordan until the caliphate gives its permission,” the statement said. Jordan is among a number of Arab states that have joined the US-led campaign of air strikes against IS, which captured swathes of Syria and Iraq, where it has declared a caliphate. Since the 2011 uprising that toppled president Hosni Mubarak, there have been dozens of confirmed attacks by jihadists on energy pipelines in the Sinai Peninsula, repeatedly forcing a halt in gas supplies to Jordan, as well as to Israel.