Terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Egypt. Although most attacks occur in Northern Sinai, there is a risk of terrorist attacks across the country. You should avoid crowded places and gatherings (including in or around religious sites) during religious festivals or times of heightened tensions. Terrorist groups have sometimes called for attacks at these times. Take extra care over local holiday weekends, as some terrorist attacks have occurred during these times. You should follow the advice of the Egyptian authorities and your travel company, if you have one. The authorities in Egypt maintain a significant security presence across the country, including armed security officers stationed at important sites, critical infrastructure, and road checkpoints. Extra measures are in place at tourist sites.
The Egyptian government’s counter-terrorism campaign has resulted in a reduction in the number of terrorist attacks on the Egyptian mainland since January 2015, although several attacks took place on the mainland in 2017 (see list below).
In recent years, Egyptian security forces have dealt with 3 terrorist attacks on tourist locations. On 14 July 2017, 3 foreign tourists were killed and several others injured following a knife attack at beach resorts in Hurghada. Attacks also took place in Luxor in June 2015 and in Hurghada in January 2016, without loss of life.
Daesh-Sinai (formerly known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM)) is the most active terrorist group in Egypt. In November 2014, ABM announced they had pledged allegiance to Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL).
Most Daesh-Sinai attacks have targeted government, security forces and Coptic Christians, but foreigners have also been targeted. Their main area of operations is northern Sinai, but the group has claimed responsibility for attacks in other areas including South Sinai, Cairo, the western desert and Nile delta cities.
In North Sinai there are frequent, almost daily reports of terrorist attacks. Most attacks are in the northeast corner of the governorate between Al-Arish city and the border with Gaza, but the whole of the North Sinai governorate is at risk.
Most attacks in North Sinai are against the Egyptian government and military installations and personnel; however attacks have been carried out against civilians suspected of working with the authorities and in 2017 against local religious minority groups. A state of emergency in North Sinai has been declared and a curfew is in place between 7pm and 6am along the coast between al-Arish and Rafah extending around 40km inland. On 9 February 2018, the Egyptian security forces launched ‘Operation Sinai 2018’ which has resulted in a significant intensification of military activity in North Sinai, and the operation is ongoing.
Religious sites have been targeted by terrorist groups:
- on 2 November 2018, gunmen opened fire on a bus carrying Coptic Christians in Minya province, upper Egypt, killing 7 people. Daesh (formerly referred to as ISIL) claimed responsibility for the attack
- on 29 December 2017, 9 people were killed when a gunman opened fire on a church in Helwan, Cairo. Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack
- on 24 November 2017, terrorists killed over 300 civilians at a North Sinai mosque during Friday prayers
- on 26 May 2017, gunmen opened fire on a bus carrying Coptic Christians in Minya province, upper Egypt, killing 30 people. Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack
- on 18 April 2017 a group of militants opened fire on a security checkpoint near Saint Catherine’s Monastery at Mount Sinai killing a police officer. Daesh have claimed responsibility for this attack
- on 9 April 2017 (Palm Sunday) there were 2 explosions in Mar Girgis Church in Tanta an St Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria, which killed at least 44 people. Daesh claimed responsibility for these attacks
- on 11 December 2016, a church next to the Orthodox Cathedral in Abbaseya, Cairo, was attacked by a Daesh-linked suicide bomber killing 29 people
Other attacks have included:
- on 24 March 2018, there was a vehicle IED attack in Alexandria, reportedly targeting local security authorities. Two police officers were killed.
- on 20 October 2017, several policemen and militants were killed during a shoot-out following a raid on a terrorist group in Bahariya Oasis in Egypt’s Western Desert, according to Egyptian authorities
- on 14 July 2017, 3 tourists were killed during a stabbing at a beach resort in Hurghada
- on 9 December 2016 there was an IED attack targeting a checkpoint on Pyramid Road in Giza, killing at least 6 police officers. Harakat Hasm, a violent terrorist group, claimed responsibility
- on 31 October 2015, a flight from Sharm el Sheikh to St Petersburg crashed in North Sinai resulting in the deaths of 224 people, most tourists. Egyptian and Russian authorities are conducting an investigation. The investigation has not yet formally concluded, but on 17 November 2015 Russian authorities stated that the crash was caused by an explosive device on board the flight
There is also a threat of maritime terrorism:
- an attack on Egyptian navy vessels in November 2014 may have been linked to terrorism
- in August 2013, there was an attack against a container ship in the Suez Canal
There is a threat of kidnapping by groups operating in North Africa, particularly from Libya, Mauritania and groups originating in the Sahel. This includes Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQ-IM) and Daesh-affiliated groups, who may travel across the region’s porous border. There is a heightened risk of kidnap in border and remote desert areas of North Africa. Terrorist groups have kidnapped foreigners, government officials and civilians in the region for financial gain and for political leverage. Further kidnaps are likely.
Those engaged in tourism, humanitarian aid work, journalism or business sectors are viewed as legitimate targets. If you’re kidnapped, the reason for your presence is unlikely to serve as a protection or secure your safe release.
The long-standing policy of the British government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage taking. The Terrorism Act (2000) also makes payments to terrorists illegal.
There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.