Egyptian security forces have killed 40 suspected militants in three separate raids in north Sinai and Giza, a day after a bomb attack on a tourist bus near the Giza pyramids which killed four people.
It remained unclear whether they were directly connected to Friday’s attack, with Egypt’s interior ministry saying only that 30 of those killed during two raids on hideouts in Giza were “terrorist elements” planning attacks on state and tourist institutions, along with places of worship.
“Information was received by the national security that a group of terrorists were planning to carry out a series of aggressive attacks targeting state institutions, particularly economic ones, as well as tourism, armed forces, police and Christian places of worship,” the statement said.
Police found a large number of weapons and ammunition as well as bomb-making materials, the statement said.
Security forces also killed 10 suspected militants in the north Sinai capital, Arish, where the country is fighting an Isis-led insurgency.
The Egyptian state news agency MENA said the suspects, described as “terrorists seeking to intimidate Egyptians”, were killed in a gun battle. It did not say whether there had been any casualties or injuries among the security forces during the three simultaneous raids on Saturday.
It follows the deaths of three Vietnamese tourists and their Egyptian tour guide in the bus attack on Friday. Eleven other Vietnamese people were injured by the blast, along with the Egyptian driver of the bus, after the detonation of an IED that was reportedly hidden near a wall on the outskirts of Cairo. No militant group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.
The ministry has not given any details about the suspects’ identities, although it published a series of photos of bloodied bodies with their faces concealed and shotguns on the floor beside them.
It was the first attack in more than a year on foreign tourists in Egypt after the military and police launched a campaign against militant groups in February targeting the Sinai peninsula, southern areas and the border with Libya.
Geoffrey Adams, the British ambassador to Egypt, tweeted after the bus attack: “Our hearts go out to the families of the victims and all those affected in today’s incident in Giza, and to the Egyptian authorities as they respond. The UK stands with Egypt in the fight against terrorism.”
Tourism has been one of the main drivers of Egypt’s struggling economy, contributing around 11% towards GDP in 2017, or 375bn Egyptian pounds (£16bn). The country has intensified efforts to attract tourists following a steep fall in numbers following political turmoil linked to the 2011 revolution.
Although Egypt’s Red Sea resorts were sheltered from the worst of the upheaval, tourism fell dramatically following an explosion aboard a Russian plane over the Sinai peninsula in October. The explosion claimed the lives of all 217 passengers and seven crew members after the plane took off from Sharm el-Sheikh airport.
Holidaymakers were evacuated from a hotel in Hurghada in August following the death of a British couple, with tour operator Thomas Cook citing concerns over “a raised level of illness among guests” that was later found to be connected to e-coli poisoning.
Targeted campaigns promoting tourism have accompanied state-sponsored international conferences designed to encourage foreign investment.