CAIRO: A militant group based in the Sinai Peninsula has claimed responsibility for a bomb attack on an Egyptian bus in the desert peninsula that killed three South Korean tourists and an Egyptian driver.
Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, Arabic for Champions of Jerusalem, said in a statement posted on militant websites late Monday that one of its "heroes" carried out Sunday's bombing in Taba.
"God helped your brothers in Ansar Beit al-Maqdis to assign one of its heroes to blow up the tourist bus that was heading to the Zionist entity (Israel) as part of our economic war attacks on this traitorous hireling regime, which plundered the nation's wealth," the statement said
Egyptian officials have called the attack a suicide bombing, but the statement did not contain the usual phrasing, such as the word "martyr" or "God bless his soul" used in previous claims for attacks in which the bomber also died.
The statement lashed out at intensified Egyptian military operations in the Sinai Peninsula along the border with Israel targeting the militants' hideouts and vehicles.
The Egyptian regime is "killing innocent people, imprisoning women, demolishing their houses, looting their properties and flattening the lands at the border with Zionist enemy as well as displacing their owners merely to please their Jewish masters and protect their alleged borders," it said.
The Al-Qaeda-inspired group has claimed responsibility for previous attacks, but until now they have targeted primarily police and the military. The attacks have spiked after the miitary's 2013 overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, spreading to cities of the Nile Delta and the capital, Cairo.
The group claimed responsibility for downing a military helicopter in Sinai in late January, killing all five crewmembers and the assassination earlier this month of a senior interior ministry aide and carried out a powerful truck bomb outside Cairo's main security directorate.
The authenticity of the statement could not be verified but it was posted on Al-Qaeda-affiliated websites.