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Jihadists claim responsibility for attack on Sinai pilgrims
19 February 2014 13:29 by Abigail Frymann Rouch

A jihadist group has claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack on Christian pilgrims in Egypt on Sunday that left four people dead and 14 wounded.

Ansar al-Beit Maqdess said it was behind the attack in which a bomb that tore through a tourist bus near the border with Israel in the Sinai peninsula.

The bus was heading to the Taba border crossing after taking the pilgrims to visit St Catherine’s Monastery, at the foot of Mount Sinai.

Ansar al-Beit Maqdess, which is based in the Sinai and says it is linked to Al Qaeda, has been at the forefront in major attacks against police and army in recent months, which have multiplied since the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi and the outlawing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

The group said its attack marked a new phase in the war against the new Government, targeting "economic interests" linked to tourism.

The Egyptian Catholic Church has sent a message of condolence for all those killed and expressing closeness to the injured. “We pray for those who died and for the wounded,” said spokesman Fr Rafic Greiche. “But we also want to vigorously condemn this mindless violence."

The bus was carrying a group of 31 South Korean Christian pilgrims, who were on a tour that included Turkey, Egypt and Israel.

According to the police, the terrorist boarded the bus and detonated an explosive belt that must have weighed about 5-10 kg.

The four dead were the two South Korean guides, a pilgrim and the driver, an Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Christian named as Sami Joseph, 51, whose funeral was held in Cairo yesterday.