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Bombs in Egypt holiday resort kill at least 21

Written by: Staff
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DAHAB, Egypt, Apr 25: Three bombs ripped through the tourist area in the Egyptian Sinai resort of Dahab killing at least 21 people and wounding more than 70 in the latest attack on Egupt's lucrative tourism industry.

The governor of South Sinai, Mohamed Hani, told Reuters the three blasts yesterday were the work of suicide bombers and were not as powerful as two previous sets of bombings in Sinai.

But security sources in his province said initial investigations suggested planted explosive devices.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who battled against a violent campaign by militant Islamists in the 1990s, called the blasts a terrorist act, the state news MENA reported.

Hani said there were 21 dead and 71 wounded, including people from Germany, Russia, Italy, South Korea and the United States. The Interior ministry said four foreigners were killed but did not give nationalities.

Rescue officials said earlier they had counted 30 dead.

''The explosions were a bit weaker than the previous ones but now they are using suicide attacks,'' said Hani.

The bombs wrecked several restaurants along the main tourist street in the small resort. Windows and furniture were smashed and pools of blood lay on the floor. People had abandoned the restaurant in mid-meal and fled the scene.

In the bazaar, which sells souvenirs, handicrafts and jewellery, one of the blasts destroyed at least eight shops.

Residents said they saw body parts and debris outside a restaurant and that when the bombs went off at about 7.15 pm (1715 GMT) smoke billowed up from the market in Dahab, a beach and diving centre popular with foreign backpackers.

''We saw many dead people. People were screaming. People were being taken to hospital. There's police everywhere,'' said a cafe worker near the scene of one explosion, who like many other witnesses requested anonymity.

One Dahab resident said: ''There were body parts and debris in the street ... There are ambulances and cars taking people to hospital.'' Ahmad Samir, a witness in Dahab, told Al Jazeera television: ''Foreigners were scared and panicking. They were asking us where to go and how to escape.

SPRING FESTIVAL

 ''There are people of many European nationalities present in Dahab. There are British, Germans, Russian, Poles and many many Egyptians present because it is a holiday,'' he said. Dahab is also popular with Israeli holidaymakers but officials in neighbouring Israel said they were unaware of any Israeli casualties.

The blasts, on the ancient Egyptian spring festival of Shamm el-Nessim, hit the Nelson Restaurant, the Aladdin cafe and the Ghazala supermarket, the Interior Ministry said.

It was the third set of explosions on the eastern coast of the Sinai peninsula since October 2004, when a group attacked the Hilton hotel in the resort of Taba and two other resorts on the northeast coast, killing 34 people.

Egyptian authorities said a closely related group attacked again in the upmarket resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in July last year, killing at least 67 people. Those attacks were also on Egyptian holidays -- October 6 and July 23.

Residents say that judging from the evidence they saw in the streets, the explosions were smaller than those in Sharm el-Sheikh and Taba and were not the result of car bombs.

Hamdi Ghazala, owner of the Ghazala supermarket, told Al Jazeera the bomb was outside his shop and damaged mainly the windows and facade. No one inside was injured.

''These were very simple explosions compared to those in Sharm el-Sheikh. They were not powerful at all,'' he said.

The Sharm el-Sheikh attacks involved two car bombs and a suitcase bomb that hit hotels and shopping areas.

Egyptian authorities attributed the Taba and Sharm el-Sheikh attacks to a small Sinai-based group originally led by a man of Palestinian origin and with militant Islamist views.

One visitor to the town said cars and buses leaving the resort were being stopped by police.

The state news agency said: ''The president (Hosni Mubarak) stressed the need to ... track down those responsible for this wicked terrorist act so that they pay the penalty by force of law.''

REUTERS

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