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Bombs in Egyptian holiday resort kill at least 23

Written by: Staff
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DAHAB, Egypt, Apr 25 (Reuters) Three bombs ripped through the tourist area in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Dahab, killing at least 23 people and wounding scores in the latest attack on the lucrative Egyptian tourism industry.

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 agency MENA reported yesterday.

The governor of South Sinai, Mohamed Hani, told Reuters the three blasts were the work of suicide bombers and not as powerful as two previous sets of three simultaneous bombings at resorts in the Sinai peninsula over the past two years.

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

An Interior Ministry statement said there were 23 dead, including a German boy and two unidentified foreigners.

The 62 wounded included 20 foreigners, among them 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, it added.

Dahab is also popular with Israeli holidaymakers but officials in neighbouring Israel said they were unaware of any Israeli casualties.

Rescue officials said earlier they had counted 30 dead and other officials had said up to 150 were injured.

''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 are 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 US President George W Bush condemned the bombings: ''The innocent life lost in Egypt is a heinous act against innocent civilians.'' 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 national 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.

REUTERS OM RAI0623

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