Bomb Blast Kills Korean Tourists in Egypt

Four Korean tourists and one Egyptian national were killed on Sunday when a bomb exploded on a tour bus in the border town of Taba, Egypt. More than 20 others -- mostly Koreans -- were injured in the blast. Local media reported that Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, an Al Qaeda-linked terrorist group, appeared to be responsible for the bombing. The Korean tourists were members of a church in North Chungcheong Province.

According to Egyptian security officials, the bus was carrying 33 Korean tourists near the city of Taba along the Egyptian border with Israel when the blast went off. One security official said it was not yet clear whether it was a "car bomb or a remotely detonated roadside bomb." Al Jazeera News reported that the bomb went off as the tourists were getting off the bus at The Hilton Taba hotel.

The Hilton Taba was also the scene of a bombing in 2004 that killed 34 Israelis and Egyptians. Taba is a popular resort city on the Red Sea. The AP reported that the tourists had arrived in Taba after visiting the St. Catherine convent at Mt. Sinai, a popular destination for Christian pilgrims.

Ansar Beit al-Maqdis has also been behind a number of terrorist attacks in Cairo to protest the Egyptian military's ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi. Ansar Beit al-Maqdis has links to Al Qaeda and is based in the Sinai Peninsula. Local media speculate that Ansar Beit al-Maqdis may have bombed the tour bus to protest an Egyptian court decision on Saturday that found Morsi guilty of treason.

The wreckage of a tour bus that was carrying 33 Koreans when it was destroyed by a bomb in Taba, Egypt on Sunday. /Courtesy of The Times of Israel The wreckage of a tour bus that was carrying 33 Koreans when it was destroyed by a bomb in Taba, Egypt on Sunday. /Courtesy of The Times of Israel

Meanwhile, a Foreign Ministry official here said, "We are trying to verify the identities of the victims. We are using a wide range of channels to verify whether the attack was aimed at Koreans or randomly targeted people."

Following a series of terrorist attacks in the Sinai Peninsula, the Korean government raised its travel advisory for the region to "Level 3" from 2011. This was an attempt to prevent Koreans from traveling the area except in some emergency cases.

The Sinai Peninsula has seen continued terrorist attacks perpetrated by radical supporters of Morsi since his ouster. The region has been a hotbed of terrorist activity.

Yeom Seok-hyun, a pastor at the victims' Korean church, said, "Thirty-one church members left on a pilgrimage on Feb. 10 to Israel, Egypt and Turkey." The pastor claimed that although the bus carrying his church members appeared to have been attacked, nobody seemed to have been harmed.

Some media reports said a Korean missionary and the bus driver had been killed. The church members were scheduled to return to Korea on Friday.

englishnews@chosun.com / Feb. 17, 2014 09:32 KST