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Switzerland closes inquiry into Luxor massacre

Switzerland has closed its investigation into the Luxor massacre in 1997, in which 36 Swiss tourists were killed. In its final report, the federal police office said it was convinced the main aim of the killings was to damage Egypt's tourism sector.

Switzerland has closed its investigation into the Luxor massacre in 1997, in which 36 Swiss tourists were killed. In its final report, the federal police office said it was convinced the main aim of the killings was to damage Egypt's tourism sector.

The report admits that there are still unanswered questions, but that it is unlikely any additional information will be available in the short-term. For this reason, the police says, it has decided to close the case.

On November 17, 1997, 62 people were killed in an attack on the temple of Queen Hatshepsut in the Egyptian resort town of Luxor. Six terrorists involved in the attack were also killed. The police report says the killers, whose leader belonged to the militant wing of the Islamic group, Gamaa al Islamiya, were mostly unknow to the Egyptian security services.

It says the order for the attack probably came from a Sudan-based Islamic leader, Mustafa Hamza, whom it describes as one of the most important role models for Egyptian Islamic groups.

"Despite claims to the contrary, the outcome of the investigation shows that the attackers did not plan to take any hostages, but aimed to kill as many people as possible," the report says.

It adds that the police believed the massacre was not directed at Switzerland or its citizens, but at disrupting Egypt's key tourism sector and destabilising the government in Cairo.

"The fact that the majority of the victims (more than half) were from Switzerland, was a tragic coincidence," the report concluded.

However, it also indicates that the Egyptian authorities have not been very co-operative in the course of the investigation. It notes that requests for legal assistance handed over in November and December 1998 were only answered in June 1999, and revealed very little. Egypt also refused to release details of its forensic investigations.

Swiss police say one reason for Cairo's lack of help may be a recommendation issued after the Luxor massacre by the Swiss foreign ministry, not to visit Egypt. But the police says it is now satisfied with the security measures introduced by the Egyptian authorities.

The report highlights a number of unanswered questions. It says it is impossible to say for sure whether Egypt's assumption that six terrorists carried out the attack is correct, and that the identity of one of the attackers is still unknown. It also says personal belongings of some of the victims are still missing.

Egypt has steadfastly rejected Swiss demands for compensation for the victims of the massacre, arguing that such a measure would set a precedent for other claims.

Despite the open questions, the Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, laid to rest any disputes over the Luxor massacre during a visit to Egypt two weeks ago. During talks with his Egyptian counterpart, Amr Moussa, and the president, Hosni Mubarak, Deiss agreed to open a new chapter in bilateral relations.

Swissinfo with agencies

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