A suicide bomber blew himself up in the parking lot of Karnak temple in the southern Egyptian city of Luxor on Wednesday, security sources and witnesses said, in an escalation of attacks on tourist sites.
No group immediately claimed responsibility but Islamist militants bent on toppling the Cairo government have killed hundreds of police and soldiers in the past, usually at checkpoints and barracks or police stations.
A Health Ministry spokesman said four Egyptians were wounded. Security sources said casualties included bazaar shop owners and two policemen. A senior Interior Ministry security source cited by state news agency MENA said no tourists had been wounded.
The Interior Ministry said in a statement it had foiled what it called a terrorist attack, in which two attackers were killed and a third wounded.
In 1997, 58 tourists and four Egyptians were killed in an attack in Luxor at a woman pharaoh’s temple.
Hosni Mubarak, the veteran autocrat ousted in a 2011 uprising, took years to crush an Islamist insurgency in the 1990s.
There were conflicting reports on the details of Wednesday’s attack.
The sources said three armed men tried to storm a barricade that leads to the Karnak temple site. Two men left the car and engaged in gunfire with police. One was killed and the other was severely wounded. The third man in the car managed to overcome the barricade and blew himself up.
A senior Interior Ministry security source cited by state news agency MENA said the attackers had tried to target a tourist bus near the temple, before security forces engaged them. One of them detonated a bomb. The remaining two attackers exchanged fire with security forces. They were taken to hospital and one of them died on the way.
Tourism is one of the top sources of income and foreign currency earnings for the Arab world’s most populous country.
A shift towards attacks on softer tourist and economic targets could undermine Egypt’s efforts to win back foreign tourists scared away by political and economic turmoil since the 2011 uprising.
Gunmen on a motorcycle shot dead two members of Egypt’s tourism and antiquities police force on a road near the Giza pyramids last week.
Suspected Islamist militants bombed a tourist bus in the southern Sinai Peninsula in February 2014, killing two South Koreans and an Egyptian.
North Sinai is the epicentre of an Islamist insurgency.
Sinai Province, a militant faction that changed its name from Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis last year after swearing allegiance to the ultra-hardline Islamic State group that emerged in Iraq and Syria, has claimed some of the deadliest attacks.