CAIRO A shark attacked and killed a French tourist diving in a remote site off Egypt's Red Sea coast on Tuesday, in the first fatal shark attack in the Arab country since 2004, state media and a French embassy official said.
"I can confirm that there is one French citizen killed by a shark in the Red Sea south of Marsa Alam," French embassy spokesman Jean-Marie Safa said.
The woman's leg showed visible bite marks, and she likely bled to death before being lifted to the surface, Egyptian state news agency MENA quoted a medical source as saying.
Marsa Alam is a remote southern dive spot on the Red Sea coast frequented by tourists hoping to avoid the crowds at more popular sites in the Sinai peninsula, where tourists flock in large numbers for the colourful coral reefs.
"This very rarely happens. It seems that the victim aggravated the shark or presented it with food, which caused a change in the shark's behaviour," MENA quoted Amr Ali, the president of the Society for the Preservation of the Red Sea Environment, as saying.
Sharks are common in the area and tourists often take pictures, but attacks are rare. The last person killed by a shark in Egypt was attacked while snorkelling near the Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in 2004, according to the Global Shark Attack File website (www.sharkattackfile.net). Egypt's Environment Ministry is looking to set up a natural reserve for the sharks near Marsa Alam, where it already has a similar reserve for dolphins, MENA added.
(Writing by Alastair Sharp)