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Egypt knife attacker 'chatted to victims before producing weapon'

The Egyptian university graduate who stabbed two German women to death at a popular Red Sea resort first sat and spoke to them before producing a large kitchen knife and attacking them, security officials have said.

Abdel-Rahman Shaaban, 29, then left the women for dead and fled the scene in Hurghada, chased by hotel workers and security guards.

He rushed into the hotel next door where he attacked and injured four female tourists who, according to local media reports, included two Armenians, one from Ukraine and another from the Czech Republic.

"Stay back, I am not after Egyptians," Shaaban shouted in Arabic at his pursuers, according to the officials. They eventually caught up with him, disarmed and pinned him down and later handed him over to police.

Shaaban stabbed the women in the face, neck and feet.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but it appears to have been inspired by recent calls made by the local affiliate of the extremist Islamic State group on its followers to attack Egypt's minority Christians and foreign tourists.

The officials said Shaaban hails from the Nile Delta province of Kafr el-Sheikh where he attended the business school of the local branch of Al-Azhar University - the world's foremost seat of learning of Sunni Islam and the target of mounting criticism in recent months over its alleged radical teachings and doctrinal rigidity.

Investigators are still trying to determine how Shaaban came to be in Hurghada, one of Egypt's main Red Sea resorts popular for its year-round sunny weather and diving.

A statement by the national security prosecution's office, which is questioning Shaaban in Cairo, said his motives and ideological convictions remain unclear.

"The characterisation of the action committed by the culprit, whether it is an individual act, criminal or terrorist, is not clear to the prosecution at this time," said the statement.

Police are interviewing 15 hotel workers to piece together what happened.

Germany on Saturday gave the first official confirmation that the two tourists killed by Shaaban were German nationals, but gave no other information. Local German media reports, however, said the two were residing in Hurghada, and were not tourists.

In a statement, the German Foreign Ministry said: "According to everything that we know, this act was aimed at foreign tourists - a particularly perfidious and criminal act that leaves us sad, dismayed and angry."

The attack on the tourists took place just hours after five policemen were killed in a shooting near some of Egypt's most famous pyramids in the greater Cairo area.

No group claimed responsibility for that attack, which bore the hallmarks of a militant group known as Hasm that has been behind similar assaults in recent months.

Authorities say Hasm is a splinter faction of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group that was outlawed and declared a terrorist organisation several months after the military in July 2013 ousted Mohammed Morsi, a senior leader of the Brotherhood who was elected president in 2012.

Friday's attacks are likely to further impact Egypt's tourism industry - a backbone of the country's economy that employs millions of people but which has been decimated by the political turmoil and lacking security roiling the country since the 2011 Arab Spring uprising.

On Saturday, tight security was in place at Hurghada, with additional checkpoints at the city's entry and exit points and reinforced security at tourist sites, including where the attack took place.

AP

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