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Group of Egyptian Extremists Taunt President Mubarak

By John Daniszewski
Los Angeles Times
CAIRO, Egypt

The group that claims it massacred 58 foreign tourists this week mocked Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Thursday, saying his shake-up of security services will not prevent further attacks.

But Gamaa al-Islamiya, or Islamic Group, said in a statement faxed to a news agency that it would agree to a truce "for a while" if Mubarak's secular government accepts demands - including stopping its campaign against Gamaa members and breaking off relations with Israel.

The taunting communique came two days after Mubarak accepted the resignation of Interior Minister Hassan Alfi, upbraiding him and subordinates for failing to protect the ancient Hatshepsut Temple near Luxor, where Monday's massacre occurred.

"Oh, Mubarak, removing Alfi is not enough," the statement was headlined, continuing, "A movement that leads a people cannot be defeated. The policy of removing ministers and replacing them with others cannot solve the problem of the Egyptian regime."

Government spokesmen said they would not comment on the Gamaa demands but the mood of authorities clearly was to redouble the fight against the radical Islamic group that has undermined the country's lucrative tourist industry and raised questions as to whether the Arab world's largest country is vulnerable to renewed Islamic violence.

Mubarak held an emergency Cabinet meeting Thursday to discuss a draft security plan covering Egyptian tourist sites. Habib Adli, the new interior minister, moved quickly, meantime, to replace top Interior Ministry officials and security chiefs in Luxor, a Nile River city 310 miles from Cairo visited by millions of tourists each year.

Hundreds of troops have been deployed in Luxor since the attack but it has not deterred cancellations of tourist bookings. The Gamma attack was the worst terrorist assault in modern Egypt's history and seemed to mark a new chapter in terms of ferocity and sheer violence.