(New York) – Egyptian authorities should ensure a full, speedy and effective investigation into the February 16, 2014 bombing of a tourist bus in the Sinai Peninsula that killed four civilians. The investigation should lead to the identification and prosecution of those responsible for planning as well as for carrying out the attack.
The suicide bomber on February 16 boarded a tourist bus carrying a group of South Korean Christian tourists en route to Israel near Sinai’s Taba border crossing, killing three of the tourists and their Egyptian bus driver and wounding more than 13 others. The Sinai-based group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis purportedly claimed responsibility for the attack “as part of our economic war against the regime of traitors … in order to paralyze their hands from [hurting] Muslims.” Another purportedly from the group warned tourists to leave Egypt before February 20 or risk further attacks.
“Such wanton killings are never justified, no matter what the political or other purpose,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
It was the first attack on tourists in Sinai since a series of bombings in Sinai resort towns from 2004 to 2006.
The February 16 bombing is the latest in an onslaught of attacks in the Sinai Peninsula by Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis and other armed groups since the military ouster of Egypt’s Islamist president, Mohamed Morsy, on July 3. Prior to the February 16 attack, armed groups had targeted Egyptian military and police in hundreds of attacks since July.
Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis had claimed responsibility for a car bombing on December 24, 2013, in the city of Mansoura that killed 16 people at a security force headquarters and for the attempted assassination of Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim in September.
In August, unidentified armed men killed 24 police officers in an attack with rocket-propelled grenades on two police buses near the Rafah border between the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip. There had also been attacks against security forces in Sinai during Morsy’s year in office.
Egyptian authorities should prosecute all those for whom they have compelling evidence of responsibility for this horrific attack, in judicial proceedings that meet international fair trial standards, Human Rights Watch said.
“Attacks such as this one on a bus filled with tourists in Sinai are an abhorrent violation of the right to life,” Stork said.