Gamaa Islamiya to withdraw member from Egypt's Luxor governorship

Ahram Online, Dalia Farouk, Saturday 22 Jun 2013

Egypt's hardline Islamist Gamaa Islamiya says it will withdraw Adel El-Khayat from the governorship of the ancient touristic city of Luxor following uproar over his appointment by President Morsi

Protester are seen through the smoke emitted from burning tyres as they gather in front of Luxor governorate building during a protest against the newly-appointed governor, Adel Mohamed al-Khayat, who was a member of the militant group, al-Gamaa al-Islamiya, in Luxor, June 19, 2013 (Photo: Reuters)

Freshly-appointed governor of the tourist city of Luxor, Adel El-Khayat, who belongs to the Egyptian hard-line Islamist group Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya, has agreed to resign, announced deputy head of the group's political arm, the Building and Development Party, Safwat Abdel-Ghani Saturday.

Abdel-Ghani, speaking at a press conference held by the Egyptian Union for Tourism Chambers, said that the party had convened and made the decision to ask El-Khayat to resign, and that he agreed.

The appointment of El-Khayat as governor of Luxor last week provoked uproar in the Upper Egyptian governorate, as El-Khayat is a founding member of Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya, the militant group responsible for the Luxor massacre that killed at least 58 foreign tourists and four Egyptians in 1997.

"The party was not consulted [by the presidency] prior to the appointment of [El-Khayat] and if it were consulted we would not have approved the appointment," Abdel-Ghani said, adding that the party has chosen to withdraw El-Khayat to avoid confrontation.

Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou resigned last Wednesday in protest at the appointment of the ultra-conservative Islamist El-Khayat.

Hundreds protested outside the Luxor governorate headquarters following El-Khayat's appointment. Political activists and tourism workers in the governorate announced they will force touristic sites in Luxor to shut down if El-Khayat is not dismissed from office.

"The party can never be against tourism, for it is a primary resource of the country, and if [tourism] falls apart Egypt's economy would follow, and for that we should work on developments in that sector," Abdel-Ghani stressed.

Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya was also implicated in the 1981 assassination of President Anwar El-Sadat, after which El-Khayat was sentenced to one year in prison without charge.

In an ideological U-turn, the group formally renounced violence in the immediate wake of the Luxor attack. Following Egypt's 2011 popular uprising, which ended Hosni Mubarak's three-decade rule, the group established the Building and Development Party as its political arm.

Egypt's tourism industry suffered a major blow since the January uprising that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak, after which unprecedented political instability ensued, prompting several foreign governments to advise their nationals to exercise caution when travelling to Egypt.

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