Luxor massacre

Coordinates: 25°44′18″N 32°36′23″E / 25.73833°N 32.60639°E / 25.73833; 32.60639
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Luxor massacre
Part of terrorism in Egypt
The Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut, where the attack took place
LocationDayr al-Bahri, Egypt
Date17 November 1997; 26 years ago (1997-11-17)
8:45 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. (UTC+02:00)
Attack type
Mass shooting
WeaponsAutomatic firearms, knives, machetes
Deaths62 (58 tourists, 4 Egyptians)
PerpetratorAl-Jama'a al-Islamiyya
Assailants6 militants (later committed suicide)
MotiveIslamist terrorism

The Luxor massacre was a terrorist attack that occurred on 17 November 1997 in Egypt. It was perpetrated by al-Jama'a al-Islamiyya and resulted in the deaths of 62 people, most of whom were tourists. It took place at Dayr al-Bahri, an archaeological site located across the Nile from the city of Luxor.


In the mid-morning of 17 November, six gunmen killed 58 foreign nationals and four Egyptians.[1] The assailants were armed with knives and automatic firearms, and disguised as members of the security forces. They descended on the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut at around 08:45. They killed two armed guards at the site.[1] With the tourists trapped inside the temple, the killing went on systematically for 45 minutes, during which many bodies, especially of women, were mutilated with machetes.[1][2] The body of an elderly Japanese man was also found mutilated.[3] A leaflet was discovered stuffed into his body that read "no to tourists in Egypt" and was signed "Omar Abdul Rahman's Squadron of Havoc and Destruction—the Gama'a al-Islamiyya, the Islamic Group".[3]

The dead included a five-year-old English child, Shaunnah Turner, and four Japanese couples on honeymoon.[4][5] There were 26 survivors.

The attackers then hijacked a bus, but ran into a checkpoint of armed Egyptian National Police and military forces. One of the terrorists was wounded in the subsequent shootout and the rest fled into the hills where their bodies were found in a cave, apparently having committed suicide together.[6]

One or more al-Jama'a al-Islamiyya leaflets were found calling for the release of Omar Abdel-Rahman from a U.S. prison,[7][8] stating that the attack had been carried out as a gesture to exiled leader Mustafa Hamza,[9] or declaring: "We shall take revenge for our brothers who have died on the gallows. The depths of the earth are better for us than the surface since we have seen our brothers squatting in their prisons, and our brothers and families tortured in their jails".[10]


Most of the victims were foreign tourists. Most of the casualties were from Switzerland, with 36 of its citizens killed. The youngest victim was a five-year-old British child.

Nationality Number of victims
Switzerland 36[11]
Japan 10[12][13]
United Kingdom 6[13]
Germany 4[13]
Egypt 4[14]
Colombia 2[13]
Bulgaria 1[13]
France 1[13]


The attack was thought to have been instigated by exiled leaders of al-Jama'a al-Islamiyya, an Egyptian Islamist organization, attempting to undermine the organization's July 1997 "Nonviolence Initiative", to devastate the Egyptian economy[15] and provoke the government into repression that would strengthen support for anti-government forces.[2] However, the attack led to internal divisions among the militants, and resulted in the declaration of a ceasefire.[16] In June 2013, the group denied that it was involved in the massacre.[17]


The attack took place an hour before the state visit of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and Prince-Consort Claus.

Following the attack, President Hosni Mubarak replaced interior minister General Hassan Al Alfi with General Habib al-Adly.[18] The Swiss Federal Police "later determined that Osama bin Laden had financed the operation".[19]

The tourist industry in Egypt, and particularly in Luxor, was seriously affected by the resultant slump in visitors and remained depressed until sinking even lower with the September 11 attacks in the United States in 2001, the 2005 Sharm el-Sheikh attacks, and the 2006 Dahab bombings.[citation needed]

The massacre marked a decisive drop in Islamist terrorists' fortunes in Egypt by turning public opinion overwhelmingly against them. Terrorist attacks declined dramatically following the backlash from the massacre.[19] Organizers and supporters of the attack quickly realized that the strike had been a massive miscalculation and reacted with denials of involvement. The day after the attack, al-Jama'a al-Islamiyya leader Refa'i Ahmed Taha claimed the attackers intended only to take the tourists hostage, despite the immediate and systematic nature of the slaughter. Others denied Islamist involvement completely. Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman blamed Israelis for the killings, and Ayman Zawahiri maintained the attack was the work of the Egyptian police.[20][21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Napoli, James J. "Egyptian Government Continues to Blame West for Ills After Luxor Massacre". Washington Report for Middle East Affairs. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  2. ^ a b Wright, The Looming Tower (2006), pp. 256–7
  3. ^ a b Brown, L. Carl; Wright, Lawrence (2006). "The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11". Foreign Affairs. 85 (6): 174. doi:10.2307/20032189. ISSN 0015-7120. JSTOR 20032189.
  4. ^ Jehl, Douglas (19 November 1997). "At Ancient Site Along the Nile, Modern Horror". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 6 March 2014. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  5. ^ Cowell, Alan (20 November 1997). "At a Swiss Airport, 36 Dead, Home From Luxor". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 3 May 2014. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  6. ^ Wright, Lawrence, The Looming Tower (2006), pp. 257–8
  7. ^ Mannes, Aaron (2004). Profiles in Terror: The Guide to Middle East Terrorist Organizations. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 96. ISBN 978-0-7425-3525-1.
  8. ^ United States of America v. Ahmed Abdel Sattar, a/k/a "Abu Omar," a/k/a "Dr. Ahmed," Lynne Stewart, and Mohammed Yousry, Defendants. Archived 3 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine No. S1 02 CR. 395(JGK). 24 October 2005.
  9. ^ "Terror in Egypt". ADL. January 1998. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 1 January 2016.
  10. ^ "Bloodbath at Luxor". The Economist. 20 November 1997. Archived from the original on 23 January 2016. Retrieved 1 January 2016.
  11. ^ "Switzerland closes inquiry into Luxor massacre". Swiss Info. 10 March 2000. Archived from the original on 19 December 2013. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  12. ^ "Families grieve over massacre in Egypt". The Japan Times. 18 November 1997. Retrieved 14 August 2022.
  13. ^ a b c d e f Wiseman, James (March 1998). "Insight: The Death of Innocents: The Luxor Massacre - Archaeology Magazine Archive". Retrieved 14 August 2022.
  14. ^ "Terror in Egypt". ADL. January 1998. Archived from the original on 6 January 2011. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  15. ^ "Fearing the worst". Al-Ahram Weekly. 5 May 2005. Archived from the original on 24 September 2013. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  16. ^ el-Zayat, Montasser, "The Road to al-Qaeda", 2004. tr. by Ahmed Fakry
  17. ^ "Egypt's Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya denies involvement in 1997 Luxor massacre". Egypt Independent. 19 June 2013. Archived from the original on 25 April 2014. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  18. ^ Rana Muhammad Taha; Hend Kortam; Nouran El Behairy (11 February 2013). "The Rise and fall of Mubarak". Daily News Egypt. Archived from the original on 28 April 2014. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  19. ^ a b Wright, The Looming Tower (2006), p. 258
  20. ^ Wright, The Looming Tower (2006), p. 293
  21. ^ "Egypt tries to understand the Luxor massacre". BBC News. 1 December 1997. Archived from the original on 21 February 2009. Retrieved 2 May 2014.

External links[edit]

25°44′18″N 32°36′23″E / 25.73833°N 32.60639°E / 25.73833; 32.60639