Gunmen kill two Egyptian police officers in attack near pyramids

Gunmen killed two members of Egypt's tourism police in a drive-by attack near the pyramids

Unidentified gunmen shot and killed two members of Egypt’s tourism police Wednesday in a drive-by attack not far from the country’s most iconic tourist attraction, the pyramids of Giza, official reports said.

The state news agency MENA said the two motorcycle-borne assailants escaped and that security forces were scouring the Haram district, to the west of Cairo. The Reuters news agency cited a security source as saying the shooting took place about 30 yards from a security checkpoint leading to the Giza plateau, the site of the pyramids and the Sphinx.

Egypt has been hit by frequent attacks against security forces and police and army installations, but tourist areas have been largely unscathed. There were no initial reports of any visitors being injured in the attack, or even being close to the scene of the shooting.

“Everything is OK here,” said a reception clerk at a luxury hotel within sight of the pyramids, speaking on condition of anonymity because hotel workers had been told not to discuss the attack.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. Islamist militants have claimed to have carried out a number of other attacks in the nearly two years since Islamist President Mohamed Morsi was removed from office in a popularly supported military coup. Most of those strikes, though, have targeted military or security sites or convoys.

The tourism and antiquities police, while weapons-carrying members of the security establishment, are rarely involved in violent incidents, with their role being mainly to safeguard ancient sites and protect tourists. The bloodiest attack targeting foreign visitors was in 1997, when Islamist militants gunned down more than 60 people, most of them tourists, in a famed temple complex outside the southern city of Luxor.

In recent months, attacks in and near Cairo have mainly consisted of small bombs that have caused property damage but only a small number of fatalities. Some of the explosive devices, though, have targeted commercial establishments, particularly in advance of a high-profile investors conference in March.

Wednesday’s attack came as Egyptian authorities have been hailing a tourism comeback and touting hotel-expansion plans. Authorities said this week that visitor arrivals in the first quarter of 2015 were up by about 7% compared with the same period a year ago.

Tourism figures remain far down from their heyday -- before the 2011 revolution that forced out longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak -- but international visitors are still a significant source of foreign exchange for Egypt.

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