Morsy scorned for appointment of 'terrorist'
CAIRO — The appointment of a state governor with links to Egypt's worst terrorist attack has provoked outrage in the city where that attack occurred.
President Mohammed Morsy named Adel Al Khayat, of Gama'a Islamiyya's Building and Construction Party, as governor of Luxor, one of the country's leading historic sites.
In 1997, Gama'a Islamiyya terrorists killed 58 foreign tourists and four Egyptians at Queen Hatshepsut's Temple, part of Luxor's network of pharaonic ruins. Many of the dead were mutilated, and a note praising Islam was placed in a disemboweled body, according to news reports at the time.
Al Khayat, 52, was not directly implicated in the attack but was a prominent member of the group. He was imprisoned for a year in a roundup of Islamists after the 1981 assassination of Egypt's President Anwar Sadat.
“This is something I am not able to digest,” Ezzat Saad, Luxor's outgoing governor, said of the appointment. He told the Tribune-Review that it shows Morsy's ruling Muslim Brotherhood “doesn't care about tourism or Luxor at all.”
Saad, a former ambassador to Russia, said Egypt's political situation “is becoming crazy.”
In Luxor, residents whose livelihoods depend on tourism protested. A sign posted on a governorate office door called Al Khayat a “terrorist.” Graffiti on one wall showed a bearded man in a long gown over the words: “Mr. Terrorist Governor, welcome to the city of idols.”
Many Islamists say ancient statues, temples and other artifacts are pagan idols to be destroyed.
Mohammed Abdel Fattah, whose family owns a tourist shop in Luxor, said people “are angrier than they ever have been.” He said they “are waiting for June 30” — when opposition leaders have called for a rallies against Morsy's Islamist government — “and we will all go to the (public) square to protest.”
Mamoun Fandy, a Luxor native and founder of the London Global Strategy Institute, a British think tank, called Al Khayat's appointment “mind-boggling.”
“People in Luxor had never seen horror like that, the slitting of throats,” he said of the 1997 massacre. “To bring someone like this back to rule them … this is history gone twisted and wrong.”
Fandy said he studied at an Egyptian university where Al Khayat and other Gama'a Islamiyya members terrorized Christians and Muslims who did not follow their fundamentalist version of Islam. The men wore bicycle chains “around their waists and they were beating people … they were like a gang, vicious thugs.”
Khaled Elgindy, an analyst who specializes in Egypt for the Brookings Institute, a liberal Washington-based think tank, said the appointment “is in incredibly poor taste for the people of Luxor, the tourism industry and the international community.
“It really underscores the kind of bad political judgment happening inside Morsy's presidency.”
Al Khayat could not be reached for comment. But Hany Nour Eddin, a Gama'a Islamiyya member and former parliamentarian, said he “is from the people of Luxor, he knows the atmosphere.” He called the appointment “an excellent initiative.”
Nour Eddin — part of a controversial delegation of Egyptian Islamists and lawmakers who met with Obama administration officials in Washington in 2012 — insisted Al Khayat and Gama'a Islamiyya were not involved in the 1997 massacre.
Gama'a Islamiyya favors strict Islamic law, including the banning of alcohol and nightclubs, and requiring all women to wear Islamic dress — strictures that many Egyptians fear would destroy the vital but struggling tourism industry.
Its spiritual leader, Omar Abdel Rahman, remains in a U.S. prison for his role in 1990s terror attacks in New York, including the first bombing of the World Trade Center.
Islamists here regularly demand the release of Rahman, known as “The Blind Sheikh,” and Morsy has told followers he will press for that.
Morsy's latest appointments put 13 of 27 governorships under Brotherhood control.
Brotherhood officials say opposition parties refused to submit any governor candidates to Morsy.
Betsy Hiel is the Tribune-Review's foreign correspondent. She can be reached at email@example.com.