April 25, 2006

Tourists defiant after Egypt bomb

By Amil Khan and Cynthia Johnston

DAHAB, Egypt (Reuters) - Defiant holidaymakers described
scenes of carnage in Egypt's Sinai resort of Dahab on Tuesday
after three bombs killed at least 23 people in the latest
attack on the country's vital tourist industry.

A security source said 10 people, all of them Egyptians,
had been detained in connection with Monday's bombings, but
gave no details on what their involvement may have been or if
they were connected to a specific group.

Despite the attacks, which also wounded around 60 people,
most tourists said they planned to stay on in Dahab, a popular
resort for diving, especially among backpackers.

Egypt's tourism industry generates more than $7 billion a
year and employs around 10 percent of the workforce, making it
an economic linchpin. About 100 Egyptians and foreigners
marched through Dahab on Tuesday chanting: "We love everyone"
in an apparent effort to rally support for the industry.

"We don't think we're going to change our plans. You end up
thinking that it could happen anywhere these days," Swiss
holidaymaker Matthias Barlocher said before the march.

"(But) it doesn't feel right to be enjoying a holiday when
you can see bloody footprints everywhere."

Trails of blood remained on a long stretch of Dahab's beach
promenade, which is lined with restaurants and souvenir shops.
In other places, shopkeepers washed away bloodstains with salt
and water and attempted to go back to business.

Security officials said the explosions were probably caused
by bombs attached to timers rather than suicide bombers.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the
blasts, which bore the hallmarks of previous coordinated blasts
in the region by local militants.

A little-known, Sinai-based group is believed to have
carried out two other, similar-style attacks on Egypt's Red Sea
coast in the last two years, killing around 100 people -- one
in the resort of Taba and another at Sharm el-Sheikh.

Security experts downplay possible links to external
militant groups such as al Qaeda but say they may serve as
inspiration for the local attackers.

One witness to Monday's bombing, Australian Steve
Torokfalvy, said he administered first aid to victims after one
explosion smashed windows and blew out doors in his hotel.

"There was one guy who was in a really bad way, who when we
turned him round, I saw half his face was missing, we just
tried to comfort him until we could get more help," he said.

"From the top of the hotel you could see body parts on the
roofs of the shops ... It was horrible, it was really


Egypt's Interior Ministry said a German child was killed in
the blasts, along with two other foreigners and 20 Egyptians.
Some of the wounded were flown to Cairo for treatment.

Despite the carnage, Europe's two largest tourism firms,
TUI and Thomas Cook, said just four customers wanted to cut
short their holidays in the region.

Security officials said the bombs were primitive and looked
home-made. "These were bombs that contained gunpowder and nails
and were fitted with timers," said one official, who asked not
to be named. "It was very crowded and that's what increased the
number of casualties."

The injured included about 40 Egyptians, three Danes, three
Britons, two Italians, two Germans, two French people, a South
Korean, a Lebanese, a Palestinian, an American, an Israeli and
an Australian, the Interior Ministry said.

Israel warned of a kidnap threat against its citizens.

It was the third set of attacks in Sinai since October
2004, when a group bombed the Hilton hotel in the Taba resort,
close to the Israeli border, and two beach camps, killing 34.

That attack preceded another at the southern Sinai resort
of Sharm el-Sheikh in July 2005, which killed more than 60

In each case, three bombs went off within minutes of each
other on the evening of a holiday. In some cases the bombers
used trucks, in others they left explosives in suitcases.

The Interior Ministry said the targets in Dahab were a
restaurant, a cafe and a supermarket in the resort, which lies
80 km (50 miles) north of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Egyptian authorities say the Sinai group was founded by a
man of Palestinian origin who grew up in the north Sinai town
of El Arish and adopted the views of militant Islamists.

They say the group has no known links with foreign
organizations such as the al Qaeda group of Osama bin Laden.

The alleged founder, Iyad Said Saleh, died in the bombing
at the Taba Hilton, apparently because he set the timer of his
bomb wrongly, Egyptian police said at the time.

(Additional reporting by James Regan)