Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has appointed a state governor who was a senior member of Egypt's worst terrorist organization, provoking outrage worldwide and in the city where that attack occurred. Morsi, who represents the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, named Adel el- Khayat the governor of Luxor, one of the country's leading historic sites.
El-Khayat belongs to the political arm of Gama'a Islamiya (the Construction and Development party), which waged a bloody armed insurgency against the government, attacking police, Copts and tourists. In the 1990's, Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiya carried out a wave of terrorist atrocities targeting civilians and Western tourists. And in 1997, in one of the worst terrorist attacks in the history of Egypt, gunmen from the group massacred tourists visiting Luxor’s 3,400-year-old Hatshepsut Temple, spraying them with gunfire, stabbing them and killing 58.
Workers, opposition politicians and activists in the southern city Luxor said they plan to seal off the office of the governor to prevent Adel el-Khayat from entering. Tourism is the lifeblood of Luxor, home to some of Egypt’s most dramatic ancient temples and pharaonic tombs, including that of King Tutankhamun.
Members of the tourism industry are worried over the impact of the new governor on tourism, both because of his ties to Gama'a Islamiya and because of the prospect of a hard-line Islamist running the city and surrounding province.
"It is unimaginable that those who plotted, participated or played any role in the massacre of Luxor, should become the rulers even if they have renounced and repented," said Tharwat Agamy, the head of Luxor’s Tourism Chamber.
El-Khayat claimed that Gama'a did not order the attack. However, the group claimed responsibility for the attack at the time and two years later one of its leaders threatened to repeat it.
"Luxor is a touristic town," said Sameh Roshdy, a local travel agent. "And now the new governor is one of those linked with the 1997 attack? We are not going to stand for this."
"This is something I am not able to digest," Ezzat Saad, Luxor's outgoing governor, said of the appointment.
In response, el-Khayat wrote to the Associated Press news agency, "I am honored to belong to the Islamist current, but now as a governor I am in the service of the nation. It is not fair to judge someone just because of affiliation but by evaluating their work, performance and skills."
Members of the local hotel and travel agency associations, along with opposition political parties, are planning to join the nationwide anti-government protests scheduled for June 30, the first anniversary of Mohamed Morsi’s election.
The protests, which are currently the talk of the Egyptian street, could well have serious, possibly violent, consequences.
The Muslim Brotherhood, the group to which Mohamed Morsi owes his allegiance, has called for counter-protests from its Islamist allies. The Brotherhood sees for the President’s resignation as an illegitimate attempt to undermine the democratic process.
As power blackouts continue, foreign investors flee and fuel supplies grow scarce, Egyptians are preparing for more turmoil.
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