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Bombs Rock Crowded Resort In Egypt, Killing At Least 30

By Michael Slackman


Three blasts tore through Dahab, a crowded resort town on the Sinai Peninsula, on Monday night, killing at least 30 people and wounding more than 115.

The attack, the third at a popular Sinai resort in two years, raised the specter that one of the United States’ closest allies in the Arab world is faced with a homegrown terrorist threat trying to destabilize the government.

There was confusion in the hours after the blasts, but what was clear was that a resort town on the Bay of Aqaba, a tourist spot frequented by scuba divers, was awash in blood on one of the most popular holiday weekends of the Egyptian calendar.

Perhaps most worrisome to the government was that for the third time terrorists struck about the time of a national holiday. On Tuesday, Egypt will celebrate the anniversary of Israel’s withdrawal from Sinai in 1982.

“I do not think it is a coincidence that this attack happens amid celebration of Sinai Liberation Day,” the interior minister, Habib al-Adli, said on Egyptian television “The other two attacks in Taba and Sharm el Sheik also took place during celebration of national occasions; that raises question marks.

“We will catch all those responsible very soon.”

The bombs started going off at about 7:15 p.m., in the center of the city, where the streets were packed with tourists celebrating the Coptic observance of Easter on Sunday and the ancient Egyptian spring festival of Sham el Nessim.

First hit was the Nelson Restaurant, then the Aladdin Cafe and then the Ghazala Supermarket, all within five minutes. As survivors ran for cover, television images showed a grisly scene with charred body parts, and merchants trying to cover the blackened, bloodied boardwalk with newspaper. Ambulances rushed in a procession from Cairo, more than six hours away, to help carry the wounded to hospitals.

“The tables and chairs have gone, there is nothing left,” Joseph Nazir, who owns a safari company in Dahab, told Britain’s Press Association said, describing a local restaurant. “Everybody is panicking, a lot of people are crying. We will be affected by this for a long, long time.”

Egyptian authorities at first said the bombs appeared to have been detonated by remote control. Later a local official said the explosions appeared to be the work of suicide bombers.

Officials acknowledged a good deal of confusion and uncertainty over what had actually occurred.

But officials said that the bombings did not appear to be sophisticated, and that the blasts did not appear as powerful as attacks in Taba in October 2004 and in Sharm el Sheikh in July 2005. The Taba attack killed 34 people and the Sharm el Sheikh bombing left at least 60 people dead.

Dahab, which means “gold” in Arabic, is more out of the way than the popular Sharm el Sheik or Taba. It is effectively two villages, a Bedouin village in the south and the administrative center in the north. Like other areas in the Sinai, Dahab remains popular among Israelis. Last week there were many Israelis for the long Passover weekend, but most had left by Wednesday.