The Sinai-based Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis group, which claimed
responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed two South Korean
tourists and an Egyptian on Sunday, made the statement on an
affiliated Twitter account.
"We recommend tourists to get out safely before the expiry of the
deadline," read the tweet, written in English.
The warning has not appeared on jihadi websites but the Twitter
account has been accurate in the past.
Islamist militants have killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers
since the army deposed Islamist president Mohamed Mursi in July, but
Sunday's attack on a tourist bus marks a strategic shift to soft
targets that could devastate an economy already reeling from
"What Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has announced, threatening to target
tourists in the coming period, puts new challenges in front of the
Egyptian security apparatus and the state in general," said Interior
Ministry spokesman Hany Abdel Latif.
He said these incidents had both domestic and international
The uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak in 2011 scared off many
tourists, dealing a major blow to an industry that was a major
employer and accounted for more than 10 percent of gross domestic
product before the anti-Mubarak revolt.
Visitors are down to a trickle since army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi
deposed Mursi, triggering a bloody political crisis.
Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, Egypt's most active Islamist militant
organization, has threatened to topple the interim government
installed by Sisi.
Ansar enjoys tacit support from at least some of the marginalized
Bedouin community and smugglers in the Sinai. This has enabled them
to survive several army offensives in the largely lawless peninsula.
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While security forces have crushed Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood, Ansar
Bayt al-Maqdis has become more brazen.
The group has extended its reach beyond the Sinai to cities
including Cairo, where they claimed responsibility for an
assassination attempt on the interior minister.
The latest tweet referred to a warning first issued on February 16
on the same Twitter account urging tourists to leave.
"This statement, if genuine, would add tourism quite explicitly to
the target set already outlined by Ansar, which includes security
forces and economic interests of the state and the army," said Anna
Boyd, an analyst at London-based IHS Jane's.
An army source told Reuters that the latest militant attacks were a
reaction to a military offensive which was hurting militants. "They
are breathing their last breath," he said.
(Reporting by Omar Fahmy, Shadia Nasralla, Asma Alsharif, and
Yasmine Saleh; writing by Maggie Fick; editing by Michael Georgy and
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