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Car bombs kill 83 in Egypt


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By Tom Perry

Sat Jul 23, 8:43 AM ET

 

 

 

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (Reuters) - At least 83 people were killed and 200 injured when car bombs ripped through shopping and hotel areas in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Saturday in the worst attack in Egypt since 1981.

 

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Shaken European tourists spoke of mass panic and hysteria as people fled the carnage in the early hours, with bodies strewn across the roads, people screaming and sirens wailing.

 

The regional governor said two car bombs and possibly a suitcase bomb had rocked the resort, popular with divers and European holidaymakers, as well as diplomats who have convened world summits. Egypt has called it "the city of peace."

 

One blast tore the front off the Ghazala Gardens Hotel in Naama Bay, the site of most of the resort's luxury hotels. People were feared trapped in the rubble of the lobby.

 

A car broke into the hotel compound and exploded in front of the building, South Sinai Governor Mustafa Afifi said.

 

"There was a huge ball of smoke that mushroomed up. It was mass hysteria," Charlie Ives, a London policeman on holiday, told BBC World television.

 

Said Abdel Fattah, the head of the ambulance service in Sharm el-Sheikh, said the emergency services had 62 complete bodies and parts identifiable as coming from 21 others. A senior security source said 23 people were in critical condition from among 35 casualties taken to Cairo for treatment.

 

Most of the victims were Egyptians but the Tourism Ministry spokeswoman said seven non-Egyptians were dead, including a Czech and an Italian, and 20 were injured.

 

The injured foreigners were nine Italians, five Saudis, three Britons, a Russian, a Ukrainian and an Israeli Arab, spokeswoman Hala el-Khatib told reporters. But the British Foreign Office in London said eight Britons were injured.

 

A group claiming links to the al Qaeda organization said it carried out the bombings in retaliation for "crimes committed against Muslims," according to an Internet statement.

 

The statement, which was not carried on major al Qaeda Web sites, was signed by the Abdullah al-Azzam Brigades of the al Qaeda Organization in the Levant and Egypt. It was not possible to authenticate the claim.

 

Egyptian Interior Minister Habib el-Adli said it was too early to say whether al Qaeda or other Islamist groups had any connection with the bombings but there was probably a link with attacks further north last October.

 

In the October bombings, 34 people were killed, most of them at the Taba Hilton on the Israeli border.

 

Egyptian authorities blamed them on a Palestinian leading an unaffiliated group. Last month Israel stepped up warnings to its own citizens, saying the risk of another such attack had risen.

 

Security sources said at least one car that blew up on Saturday had special plates indicating it had come over the Israeli border at Taba on the Sinai peninsula.

 

FIREBALL

 

The attacks on Saturday were the worst in Egypt at least since militant Islamists stormed a security headquarters in the southern city of Assiut in 1981, killing some 12O police.

 

Ahmed Mustafa, a waiter at a coffee shop near the first of the explosions, said a massive fireball tore through the car park outside a shopping mall in Sharm el-Sheikh town. It was about 1:15 a.m. (2215 GMT on Friday).

 

The explosion turned cars into skeletons of twisted metal, blew down masonry on nearby buildings and shattered windows for hundreds of meters (yards) around.

 

Officials said a car had exploded there but an eyewitness said a man had walked into a crowd with a large travel bag and announced in Egyptian Arabic: "I have a bomb."

 

Some people moved away but others thought he was joking, said the witness, who asked not to be named. Two minutes later an explosion took place where he had put the bag, she added.

 

"I saw a car flying up in the air, people running," restaurant owner Yehya Mohammed said by telephone. "I do not think I will ever forget this in my life. This is a horrible setback for tourism here."

 

An emergency services official said many wounded were Egyptian workers gathered at a cafe in the old market. Seventeen of the dead were burned beyond recognition.

 

Sharm residents said they heard two more explosions coming from Naama Bay in quick succession, blasts that could be felt 10 km (six miles) away. Witnesses said the first of these hit the hotel and the second a taxi rank.

 

The blasts came at a time when many tourists were in bars and markets in the popular and hitherto safe resort.

 

CONFUSION

 

Tourist Fabio Basone said: "People were trying to run in any direction to get away but were not clear where to go."

 

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak cut short a holiday on the Mediterranean coast and flew to Sharm el-Sheikh, officials said.

 

Tourism Minister Ahmed el-Maghrabi said: "These incidents will have an effect in the short term (on tourism)."

 

Foreigners have been targeted in Egypt in earlier attacks.

 

Tourism is a major source of revenues and employment in Egypt, which needs to create about 650,000 jobs a year for its youthful population. Some analysts say Egypt attracted extra visitors this year after many avoided tsunami-hit Asia.

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No idea why they would attack Egypt, I thought that country had the kind of repressive government that all the terrorists like...

871992[/snapback]

Your first problem is trying to understand and put reason to what terrorists do.

872064[/snapback]

Normally the terrorists have at least some basic reason for why they attack a target.

 

9/11 was an attack against America's transportation infrastructure, as were the two bombings in London.

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Yeah, and Sharm-el-Sheikh is probably the second-biggest tourist spot in Egypt (obviously behind Cairo + pyramids). It would be stupid to bomb an ancient spot, so they naturally went with the resort town that supposedly "blasphemes" Islam (as it is, I also heard somewhere that the resort industry there was originally built up by the Israelis when they occupied Sinai. Don't know if it's true or not).

 

And I also believe Al Qaeda's presence in Egypt is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is much older than Al Qaeda and is known to be a bit of a thorn in Mubarak's side.

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No idea why they would attack Egypt, I thought that country had the kind of repressive government that all the terrorists like...

871992[/snapback]

Your first problem is trying to understand and put reason to what terrorists do.

872064[/snapback]

Normally the terrorists have at least some basic reason for why they attack a target.

 

9/11 was an attack against America's transportation infrastructure, as were the two bombings in London.

872144[/snapback]

 

From what I heard on the news, they purposely targeted it because it was a huge tourist spot and most of the people who were killed were tourists from many european countries, very few muslims were killed.

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No idea why they would attack Egypt, I thought that country had the kind of repressive government that all the terrorists like...

871992[/snapback]

Your first problem is trying to understand and put reason to what terrorists do.

872064[/snapback]

Normally the terrorists have at least some basic reason for why they attack a target.

 

9/11 was an attack against America's transportation infrastructure, as were the two bombings in London.

872144[/snapback]

 

From what I heard on the news, they purposely targeted it because it was a huge tourist spot and most of the people who were killed were tourists from many european countries, very few muslims were killed.

872768[/snapback]

 

 

Dude, do you here what you wanna hear? Most of the people killed were Egyptions.

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