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Saber & Mahmoud Farahat ABU EL-ULLA





Classification: Mass murderers
Characteristics: Terrorist attacks
Number of victims: 13
Date of murders: 1993 / September 18, 1997
Date of arrest: September 18, 1997
Date of birth: ???
Victims profile: Two Americans and a Frenchman / Nine German tourists and an a bus driver
Method of murder: Shooting and firebombing
Location: Cairo, Egypt
Status: Sentenced to death October 29, 1997

On September 18, 1997, the two brothers attacked a bus outside the Egyptian Museum in Cairo leaving nine German tourist and their Egyptian driver dead. Not a novice slayer, Saber was incarcerated in a mental hospital for killing two Americans and a Frenchman at a Cairo hotel in 1993. In light of the bus rampage closely following his release from custody, three doctors, two nurses and six other hospital staffers are are being tried for negligence and accepting bribes.

Saber and his brother Mahmoud were charged with premeditated murder and attempting to harm the Egyptian economy through the use of violence. "This was a heinous crime against Egypt, the land of civilization ... the land of safety," military prosecutor Col. Mohammed Abdel Aziz el-Sheik said during their trial. In no uncertain terms Col. Aziz called for death by hanging for the lethal siblings.

Saber initially said that he launched the attack to avenge a cartoon drawn by a Jewish woman in Israel that depicted Islam's Prophet Mohammed as a pig. During their trial Saber repeatedly stated -- as if trying to justify deadly attack -- that they only meant to target Jews.

Egyptian officials have insisted the attack was not linked to Islamic militants. Saber has said he lacked the contacts to join the militants, but sympathized with them. Seven other people are on trial on charges of selling arms and ammunition to the brothers. Saber, a failed pop musician, said his father paid the head of Egypt's mental institutions $14,700 to have him certified mentally ill so that he could escape the death penalty in that case. The official, Sayed el-Qut, has been arrested and is on trial for bribery.

On October 29, 1997, an Egyptian military court sentenced to death the two brothers for the fire-bombing of the tourist bus. The brothers chanted, "God is great!" after a judge read the verdict in the heavily guarded courtroom. Minutes later, Saber said "Jews, Jews, the army of Mohammed is coming back!" Six of seven co-defendants were found guilty on lesser charges of involvement in the attack, and sentenced to terms ranging from one year to 10 years in prison at hard labor.


10 killed in Cairo terrorist attack

CNN News

September 18, 1997

Three men in white shirts and ties calmly walked up to a tourist bus outside the Egyptian Museum on Thursday, pulled weapons from a black plastic bag and unleashed a furious attack that killed 10 people, at least seven of them German tourists.

Egyptian security sources said all who died were in the bus parked near the Egyptian Museum at Tahrir Square, one of Cairo's busiest areas.

"It was like 'gunfight at the OK Corral,'" said Australian tourist Fabian Muir. "Totally out of control. It went on for like 20 minutes. It seemed to go on forever."

"It was horrible," said Mohammed Fadl, an Egyptian passerby. "There was black smoke coming out of the bus, and then it burst into flames."

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but police described the gunmen as terrorists. The term has been used since 1992 to describe Muslim extremists seeking to overthrow the government and turn Egypt into a fundamentalist Islamic state.

Police said they wounded and captured two of the attackers. A third was arrested nearby as hundreds of panicked people fled the area around the museum, which is famed for its rich gold artifacts from the tomb of King Tut.

Officials deny tourists are targeted

Police said seven of the victims were German. Police could not confirm the nationalities of the other three victims, but said they may have been Egyptian employees of the company operating the tour bus. Six of the dead were women and four men.

Nineteen people were wounded; eight were hospitalized.

Although Muslim militants have killed 26 non-Egyptians and wounded 73 in attacks since 1992, officials tried to play down any impact on the booming tourism industry. They said a "mentally deranged" man and his brother -- not terrorists -- had staged the attack.

"We cannot attribute this to terrorist groups," Tourism Minister Mamdouh el-Beltagi said. "Tourism is not targeted and tourists are not targets. This is not a political or terrorist act, but a criminal one by a mentally deranged person and his brother."

The Interior Ministry identified "the deranged" gunman as Saber Mohammed Farhat Abu el-Ulla. Also arrested was his brother, Mahmoud. A third gunman, who was shot in the head, was hospitalized in critical condition, authorities said.

The ministry said Saber Abu el-Ulla was put in a mental hospital after he fired on tourists at a hotel in Cairo four years ago, killing two Americans and a Frenchman. According to the ministry's statement, Saber he escaped from a mental institution three days ago.

Attack 'avenges' insult to Mohammed?

But police officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said Saber Abu el-Ulla was released after spending two years in the institution. They said Saber Abu el-Ulla told interrogators he carried out the attack to avenge the insult to Muslims by a Jewish woman who distributed posters depicting the Prophet Mohammed as a pig in June in Hebron.

The pig incident was widely condemned in the Muslim world, and by Israeli leaders as well.

The shooting Thursday came three days after a court convicted 72 people of subversion in Egypt's largest trial of Islamic extremists. Four of the defendants were sentenced to death and eight to life imprisonment.

In the past, the extremists have attacked trains and Nile River cruise boats and succeeded, for a time, in hurting Egypt's lucrative tourist business. But a record 4 million tourists visited Egypt last year, and officials were predicting more this year.

More than 30 German tourists were aboard the bus when the attack came shortly after noon. The museum's front courtyard was crowded and nearby Tahrir Square -- Cairo's main downtown square -- was jammed with pedestrians and vehicles.

'The heads of the terrorists have been falling'

Mahmoud Hamdy, the driver of a nearby waiting bus, said the attackers wore black pants, white shirts and ties and described them as looking like typical Egyptian tourist agency employees. Witnesses said the gunmen threw a firebomb under the bus and a second one at the vehicle.

Authorities have repeatedly said that the Muslim extremists have been all but wiped out, and the violence in recent months has mostly been confined to battles in southern Egypt.

Interior Minister Hassan el-Alfy repeated that claim in a speech Wednesday, saying, "The heads of the terrorists have been falling, and nothing of them remains except a few fugitives."

More than 1,100 people have been killed during the five years of violence, many of them police and extremists. But the violence has also claimed tourists, government officials and minority Coptic Christians.

The two main militant groups are al-Gama'a al-Islamiya (Islamic Group) and the Jihad (Holy Struggle). Al-Gama'a has attacked tourists, Christians and police in the past, while the Jihad concentrated on security and political figures.


Tourists return to Egyptian sites after attack

CNN News

September 19, 1997

Under the watchful eye of tourism and security officials, tourists returned to Egypt's museums and other sites Friday in the wake of a deadly firebomb and rifle attack on tour buses outside the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

"So far everything is calm," said Joe Michel, operations manager of Seti First Travel. "I had two groups ... going to the Egyptian Museum this morning."

Almost half a million tourists visited Egypt in August -- the highest number ever for a single month -- and Egyptian officials had expected the 1997 total to top last year's 4 million. How Thursday's attack -- which left nine German tourists and an Egyptian driver dead -- would affect tourism was anybody's guess.

"Egypt has been booming this year," said Michael Friedrichs, a spokesman for Germany's largest tour group, TUI. "It is hard to say at this point whether the boom will be ended by the attack. A lot of people are certainly having second thoughts."

"The calls started coming in as soon as we opened," said Nils Rautenberg at Bonn's Opera travel agency. "One woman canceled even though her trip wasn't until next April."

But some tour operators said they aren't seeing as many second thoughts, at least this soon, as they saw in 1992 when Islamic militants launched a concerted effort to topple Egypt's government by attacking tourists.

"We have only had two cancellations out of 500 bookings, and they didn't give a reason," said Seti's Michel. "After the attacks in 1992 we had almost 1,000 clients canceled after two hours."

Mursi Shehata of Spring Tours, which organized the ill-fated German tour, said he expected "some individual cancellations, but it is really going back to normal."

Several tours canceled planned trips into Cairo Friday, however, choosing instead to remain outside the capital.

The German foreign ministry issued warnings to travelers in Egypt, cautioning against travel on ships, buses and trains in middle Egypt, to and through the middle of Egypt, south of Beni Suef to Qena. It urged travelers to seek advice on travel to Hurguada, Luxor and Qena.

British tourism officials and the British Foreign Office warned travelers to be vigilant, as did the U.S. Department of State.

Egypt labeled the attack the work of a madman, not organized terrorists. Police wounded and captured two men believed to have participated in the attack. A third was wounded, but apparently escaped. Police identified the suspects in custody as Saber Farhat Abu el-Ulla, a failed pop singer, and his brother, Mahmoud.

An Egyptian state-owned newspaper quoted a government official as saying police had set up checkpoints around the city of 16 million and intensified security at hotels and tourist sites, as a result of the attack.


Egyptian bus assailants sentenced to death

October 30, 1997

Saber Abu elUlla and his brother Mahmoud Abu elUlla had pleaded guilty to charges of premeditated murder, attacking tourists and damaging the economy through violence and terrorism. They appeared in court chatting and smiling as the verdict was read.

After the verdict was read, Saber Abu elUlla cried out, God is great and dropped to the floor in prayer.

The September 18 shooting and firebombing of the tourist bus took place outside the Egyptian Museum, which houses some of the worlds greatest Pharaonic treasures. The attack wounded 26 people and shook Egypts crucial tourist industry.

Seven other men had been charged with providing the brothers with weapons used in the attack. Of these, one was sentenced to 10 years in jail with hard labor and five to prison terms ranging from 15 months to seven years. One man was acquitted.

At the start of the trial that began on October 14, Saber Abu elUlla said his only regret was that the victims of the September attack Cairo had not been Jews.

Saber Abu elUlla has said he espouses Islamist ideology but was not a member of any of the Muslim militant groups that have been waging a bloody campaign to topple the government.

Some of the groups have attacked tourists in an effort to cripple the economy. In a statement earlier this month, the largest group, the Islamic Group, hailed the mujahedeen brothers and warned tourists not to come to Egypt.

Military court verdicts cannot be appealed, but sentences can only be carried out after they have been approved by the president as supreme commander of the armed forces.

After the attack, Saber Abu elUlla said that he wanted to avenge a cartoon drawn by an Israeli woman that depicted Islams Prophet Mohammed as a pig.

But in wideranging comments during the trial, he told reporters from inside a steel cage set up in the courtroom that he staged the attack to defend Islam and to punish Europe.

Before the museum attack, Saber Abu elUlla, a failed pop musician, escaped or was freed from a mental asylum where he was committed for killing two Americans and a Frenchman at a Cairo hotel in 1993.

He has told reporters that his father paid the head of Egypts mental institutions 14,700 to get him certified mentally ill so that he could escape the death penalty in the 1993 attack. The official, Sayed elQut, has been arrested.

President Hosni Mubarak began to refer Islamist militants to the speedy justice of military courts in 1992, ignoring criticism from human rights groups. So far, 90 death sentences have been issued and 57 carried out, all but two by hanging.

The September attack on a bus in Cairos crowded Tahrir Square was the first on tourists since Islamic Group activists shot dead 18 Greek tourists they mistook for Israelis in April 1996.

Nearly 1,100 people, including 34 nonEgyptians, have been killed in a fiveyear armed campaign by Muslim militants to set up a purist Islamic state in Egypt.


October 29, 1997 - Saber & Mahmoud Farahat Abu el-Ulla - An Egyptian military court sentenced Saber and Mahmoud Abu el-Ulla to death for a fiery attack that killed nine German tourists and an a bus driver outside the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. "God is great!" the brothers chanted after a judge read the verdict in the heavily guarded courtroom.

December 29, 1997 - Saber & Mahmoud Abu el-Ulla - Cairo President Hosni Mubarak ratified the death sentences passed on Saber Abu el-Ulla and his brother Mahmoud for killing nine German tourists and their Egyptian driver outside of the Cairo Museum.





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