Egypt minister protests over Islamist governor for Luxor tourist area

June 19, 2013

(A protester throws a chain next to a graffiti on the wall depicting the newly appointed governor of Luxor Adel Mohamed al-Khayat as a terrorist while protests gather in front of the goverorate building to protest his appointment in Luxor, June 19, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer )

Egypt’s tourism minister tendered his resignation on Tuesday over President Mohamed Mursi’s decision to appoint as governor of Luxor a member of a hardline Islamist group blamed for slaughtering 58 tourists there in 1997.

Prime Minister Hisham Kandil did not accept the resignation of Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou, who remains in the post for now. However, the move pointed to a split in government over an appointment that one critic called “the last nail in the coffin” of the tourism industry.

Mursi appointed Adel Mohamed al-Khayat, a member of al-Gamaa al-Islamiya, as Luxor governor this week, a move seen as a sign of a deepening political alliance between the once-armed group and the head of the state’s more mainstream Muslim Brotherhood.

Khayat told Reuters on Tuesday he had no role in the group’s militant past including the 1997 massacre at the temple of Hatshepsut in Luxor’s Valley of the Queens. He promised to welcome tourists and keep them safe.

But Zaazou, an independent technocrat, added his voice to critics who say Mursi’s choice deals another blow to an industry already weakened by the unrest of the last two years. He said it was a move with “dire consequences.”

“The minister is committed to his position on resigning, all the while the governor of Luxor remains in his position,” the state news agency reported, quoting his spokeswoman.

Sixty-two people died, all but four of them foreigners, in the 1997 attack designed to cut off tourist revenue to the government of then-President Hosni Mubarak. Al-Gamaa al-Islamiya renounced violence more than a decade ago and has moved into the political mainstream since Mubarak was toppled.

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