Egypt hotel attack victims stable, witness recounts ordeal

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Hurghada (Egypt) (AFP) - Three European holidaymakers wounded in an attack in an Egyptian resort were in stable condition Saturday, as a witness recounted how the assailants burst into the hotel and stabbed guests.

An elderly Austrian couple and a young Swedish man were hospitalised after the assault Friday at the Bella Vista hotel in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada.

Tourism Minister Hisham Zazou said the assailants appeared to have been acting alone, and the hotel described them as "drugged young men".

He later said the wounded "will be released from hospital today", adding that "over the coming days we will announce even greater security measures to safeguard all tourists visiting Egypt".

Police shot dead one of the knife-wielding attackers and wounded another, saying one of them was carrying a "sonic gun".

A Swede who said he was the father of one of the victims, 27-year-old Sammie Olovsson, said they were sitting in the hotel restaurant when the assailants burst in and stabbed him.

"My son and me were eating in the restaurant and having a discussion," he told AFP in the Hurghada hospital.

The two men rushed in "very fast," he said. "They took knives and they tried to get Sammie here," he said, pointing to his chest.

"Then (they) said 'down on the floor' and we do that," he said, adding that he told his son, who was bleeding, not to move.

"I get up two times and they stayed there with the guns. When I got up later on they were not here," he said.

The hotel posted on its Facebook page pictures of the two other victims, spelled in hospital records as Renata Weisslen and Wilhem Weislan, both smiling.

"They are ok now," it said in a post. A doctor at the hospital told AFP they were a couple, both 72.

Zazou told AFP the two attackers were "not part of an organisation".

It was "an individually motivated attack. This is the initial finding," said Zazou, who was in Hurghada to visit the victims, adding that the investigation was still ongoing.

A video published by Egyptian news websites appeared to show the wounded assailant receiving emergency medical treatment and being questioned on his identity.

He appeared to have been shot in both legs.

Zazou described the assailants as "amateurish" and said their motive was not yet clear.

The hotel added on Facebook that "two drugged young men" attacked the restaurant with a "fake gun" and "small knives".

A restaurant employee, who requested anonymity, told AFP one of the men shouted "there is no god but God" on entering, and carried a black banner that resembled the Islamic State group flag.

"The door opened and there was a man holding a knife and a black cloth with the (Islamic State group) flag on it," he said. Another held what appeared to be a gun.

"One of them said: 'There is no god but God. We will blow up this place'. The first attacked customers sitting at a table, with a knife."

- Previous attacks claimed by IS -

The incident further undermined efforts to repair the country's damaged tourism industry, coming a day after a Cairo hotel hosting Israeli tourists came under attack by men who hurled fireworks and fired birdshot.

The Islamic State group claimed that attack, which it said targeted "Jewish" tourists.

Police said they were Arab Israelis, and that the assailants had targeted policemen guarding the hotel and not them.

The jihadist group's Egyptian affiliate is waging an insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula, and dealt a body blow to the country's tourism industry by claiming to have downed a Russian airliner in October, killing all those on board.

The attack prompted Russia to suspend flights to and from Egypt, while Britain restricted flights to the Sharm el-Sheikh resort from where the doomed plane had departed.

After that tragedy, some major tourist operators suspended packages to Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada.

The resorts, famed for their pristine beaches and scuba diving, were promoted by Egypt as jewels of its tourism industry, and had previously attracted millions of holidaymakers, including Russians, Britons and Italians.

Egypt's tourism industry was dealt some heavy blows last year.

In September, eight Mexicans were mistakenly killed by security forces in the vast Western Desert.

And in June, police foiled an attempted suicide bombing near the famed Karnak temple in Luxor -- one of Egypt's most popular attractions -- when 600 tourists were inside.

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