Contact Me By Email

Atlanta, GA Weather from Weather Underground

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Blasts in Egypt Kill at Least 59 at Sinai Resort - New York Times

Blasts in Egypt Kill at Least 59 at Sinai Resort - New York TimesJuly 23, 2005
Blasts in Egypt Kill at Least 59 at Sinai Resort
By MONA EL-NAGGAR and GREG MYRE

SHARM EL SHEIK, Egypt, Saturday, July 23 - At least 59 people were killed in a series of powerful explosions early Saturday in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheik, Egypt's interior minister said.

About 116 people were wounded in the blasts, the interior minister, Habib El-Adly, said. The explosions were apparently caused by car bombs at hotels and a market that catered mostly to European and Arab tourists, The Associated Press reported, citing security officials. Fire and smoke rose in Sharm el Sheik and nearby Naama Bay, which also has a strip of beach hotels.

Mr. El-Adly said investigators had started to gather clues from one of the cars used in the bombings, and he added that those behind Saturday's attacks could have links to those who conducted attacks last October on resorts in the Sinai Peninsula. In those attacks, three nearly simultaneous explosions ripped apart hotels in Taba, on the border with Israel, and two other Sinai resorts, killing 34 people, many of them Israelis.

Saturday's bombings appeared to be the deadliest terror attack in Egypt since a 1997 assault in Luxor, on the Nile River, that killed 58 tourists.

The explosions rocked the resort area shortly after 1 a.m. Saturday and all took place within a few minutes of one another, witnesses said.

"I heard two blasts and got up and ran out of the hotel," Yasmine el-Bahey, an Egyptian spending the weekend at the Kahramana Hotel, said in a telephone interview. "Everybody was running outside. Glass was shattered and there was a big cloud of black. Everybody ran to the beach. Many of them were naked."

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, and it was not clear whether the bombs were in parked cars or detonated by suicide bombers.

"What happened early this morning is rejected by all people," Egypt's tourism minister, Ahmed el-Maghrabi, told Egyptian television. "These criminal gangs will not be able to prevent people from traveling and moving."

The most powerful bombs went off in a parking lot between the Ghazala and Mövenpick hotels in Sharm el Sheik's Naama Bay area.

The Ghazala Hotel was "completely burned down, destroyed," Amal Mustafa, an Egyptian visitor, told The Associated Press. Television footage showed parts of the building burned out.

Another large bomb exploded in a popular market area a few miles away, the A.P. reported. That blast killed 17 people, many of them believed to be Egyptians sitting at a coffee shop. In addition, a blast occurred at a busy taxi stand, Egyptian television reported.

Despite the late hour, the streets were still busy because many people stay indoors during the heat of the day and come out late at night.

The violence occurred as Egypt prepared to hold its first multicandidate presidential elections in September. President Hosni Mubarak, who has been in power for 24 years, has prided himself on maintaining stability and has portrayed the elections as a significant reform. However, protesters and other critics of Mr. Mubarak say that opposition candidates will have little chance.

Sharm el Sheik, at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, is Egypt's leading resort and draws foreign tourists year-round from Europe and the Arab world. The area is particularly popular among scuba divers and snorkelers who are drawn to the clear water and abundant marine life. Sharm el Sheik is also used for international summit meetings: Mr. Mubarak was host to Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon, and the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, there in February when the Israelis and Palestinians announced a truce.

But the Sinai Peninsula has also been a target for bombers. The bombings last October in Taba and two other places were aimed at resorts that are popular among Israelis, who accounted for many of the casualties. The Egyptian authorities linked that attack to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The trial of three men suspected of involvement in the attacks began this month.

In first reports on the bombing on Saturday, the casualties included people from Britain, Russia, the Netherlands, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the A.P. reported, citing a security official.

Egypt's economy depends heavily on tourism, and the industry had recovered after the series of terror attacks in the 1990's that drove away many Western visitors.

After the 1997 attack in Luxor, Mr. Mubarak's government launched a sweeping crackdown against Muslim radicals opposed to his rule. No major attacks were carried out in Egypt until the bombings last October.

Mona el-Naggar reported from Cairo and Sharm el Sheik for this article, and Greg Myre from Jerusalem.

No comments:

Post a Comment