April 25, 2006

Police detain 10 after Egypt blasts

By Amil Khan and Cynthia Johnston

DAHAB, Egypt (Reuters) - Egyptian police detained at least
10 people, including computer engineers, on Tuesday in
connection with a triple bombing in the Sinai tourist resort of
Dahab that killed at least 18 people and wounded scores.

Security sources provided few details on those detained,
but the state MENA news agency said two of them were computer
engineers who arrived in Dahab from Cairo the day before the
blasts, which went off nearly simultaneously on Monday evening.

Foreign holidaymakers described scenes of carnage in the
aftermath of the explosions, which were detonated near a cafe,
a restaurant and a supermarket in the tightly packed streets of
the town, popular with scuba divers and backpackers.

Egypt's Interior Ministry confirmed 18 deaths, among them
four foreigners -- a Russian, a Swiss man, a German child and a
Lebanese national. Earlier the ministry put the death toll at
23. Lebanese authorities said they knew of no nationals killed.

The bombings, the third similar-style attack in the Sinai
peninsula in the past 18 months, threatened to dent Egypt's
vital tourist industry, which brings in more than $7 billion a
year and employs around 10 percent of the country's workforce.

As well as those formally detained, police said around 70
local bedouin had been pulled in for questioning.

Despite the severity of the attack, which wounded around 80
people and left body parts of the dead scattered on the tops of
buildings, most tourists said they planned to stay on in Dahab.

"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.

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

Trails of blood remained on a 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 by suicide bombers.
Forensics experts completed their investigations earlier on
Tuesday but gave no details on what they had collected.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the
attack, 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 attacks on the east coast of
Sinai in the last two years, killing 100 people -- one in the
resort of Taba in October 2004 and another at Sharm el-Sheikh
in July 2005.


Security experts downplayed possible links to external
militant groups such as al Qaeda but say they may serve as
inspiration for the local attackers, who are believed to be
drawn from the disaffected bedouin population of the Sinai.

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

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. He said crowding had increased the casualty toll.

The injured included about 50 Egyptians, three Danes, three
Britons, two Italians, two Germans, two French people, a South
Korean, a Palestinian, a Swiss, an American, an Israeli and an
Australian, local and foreign authorities said.

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 network 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)