Suicide bomber kills Korean Christians on pilgrimage

Four killed in blast

Four were killed and over a dozen injured in a suicide bomb attack on a bus load of Christians travelling to Israel on Sunday.

A group of 31 South Korean Christians were travelling from St Catherine's Monastery in Egypt to Israel when their tourist bus was blown up.

Islamist militant group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which has links to al-Qaeda, has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The group has released a statement saying: "Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis has successfully sacrificed one of its heroes to detonate the bus headed toward the Zionists, and this comes as part of our economic war against this regime of traitors."

The Egyptian driver, two South Korean tour guides and a church member were killed in the blast, which occurred as the bus was about to enter Israel from neighbouring Taba.

The suicide bomber entered the bus as tourists were about to disembark to cross into Israel by foot, reported Interior Ministry spokesman Hani Abdel-Latif.

It happened so close to the border that an Egyptian security camera caught the explosion on film. State television showed the bus with its roof torn off and windows blown out.

The pilgrims were members of Jincheon Jungang Presbyterian Church in Seoul, which was celebrating the 60th anniversary of its founding with a pilgrimage to key biblical sites, and their deaths have shocked the 800-strong congregation.

The daughter of one of the women killed in the blast has said she was a "devout Christian".

"I don't know how such a thing could happen, I don't know how to react to this," she told South Korea's Yonhap news agency.

The bombing is the first attack against tourists in the region since 2006, and is likely to have a significant impact on tourism in Egypt, which relies on the trade for income. Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou expressed his dismay at the attack, saying he is "very disappointed".

"I hope this will be an isolated incident that will not reoccur. This is my wish. I'm reassuring that all the rest of the country is safe and secure and what happened can happen anywhere in the world," he said.

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