30 Are Killed in Sinai as Bombs Rock Egyptian Resort City
By MICHAEL SLACKMAN
Published: April 25, 2006
DAHAB, Egypt, Tuesday, April 25 — Three blasts tore through Dahab, a crowded
resort town on the Sinai Peninsula, on Monday night, killing at least 30
people and wounding more than 115.
The attack, the third at a popular Sinai resort in two years, once again
raised the specter of one of the United States' closest allies in the Arab
world facing a homegrown terrorist threat trying to destabilize the
There was confusion in the hours after the blasts, but what was clear was
that this resort town on the Gulf of Aqaba, a quaint tourist spot frequented
by back-packers and scuba divers, was awash in blood on one of the most
popular holiday weekends of the Egyptian calendar.
It was the third time that terrorists struck near a national holiday. It is
on this day that Egypt celebrates the anniversary of Israel's withdrawal
from Sinai in 1982.
"I do not think it is a coincidence that this attack happens amid
celebration of Sinai Liberation Day," the interior minister, Habib al-Adli,
said on Egyptian television. "The other two attacks in Taba and Sharm el
Sheik also took place during celebration of national occasions; that raises
"We will catch all those responsible very soon."
Egyptian authorities at first said the bombs appeared to have been detonated
by remote control. Later a local official said the explosions appeared to be
the work of suicide bombers. An investigator at the scene on Tuesday morning
said that the bombs were all timed explosive packs, and that there was no
evidence of suicide attackers.
The bombs started going off at about 7:15 p.m., in the center of the city,
where the streets were packed with tourists also celebrating the Coptic
observance of Easter on Sunday and the ancient Egyptian spring festival of
Sham el Nessim.
The commerical strip of this tiny resort center stretches along the azure
waters of the bay, and those who planted the bombs set their deadly packages
from one end of the walkway to the other.
First hit was the Nelson Restaurant, then the Aladdin Cafe and then the
Ghazala Supermarket, all within five minutes. The blasts were not huge, but
large enough to spread destruction up and down the walks, which were stained
As survivors ran for cover, television images showed a grisly scene with
charred body parts, and merchants trying to cover the blackened boardwalk
with newspaper. Ambulances rushed in a procession from Cairo, more than six
hours away, to help carry the wounded to hospitals.
"Bodies were everywhere," said Ahmed el Tabakh, who said he ran into the
middle of the chaos moments after the blast near the supermarket. "We
carried bodies until the government came."
The wounded were ferried by cars to the local hospital, and then to a larger
hospital in Sharm el Sheikh, two hours away.
By morning, as the sun rose over the bay, people had begun to clean up the
mess and sort through the rubble. The windows of shops catering to tourists
with names like Lotus Flower and Mona Lisa were smashed.
Investigators worked carefully scooping up forensic evidence, sweeping ashes
and charred debris into bags.
"With the sound of the explosion we thought it was Judgment Day," said Addal
Ramadan, who was working in a mobile phone shop near the site of one of the
blasts. He said he saw at least 30 people on the ground.
Officials said that the bombings did not appear to be sophisticated, and
that the blasts did not appear as powerful as attacks in Taba in October
2004 and in Sharm el Sheikh in July 2005. The Taba attack killed 34 people
and the Sharm el Sheikh bombing left at least 60 dead.
"Our initial investigation proved that this operation was not sophisticated,
and the explosions were not very strong," said Mr. Adli, the interior
minister. "The explosives were done in a very basic way."
Dahab, which means gold in Arabic, is more out of the way than the popular
Sharm el Sheik or Taba. It is effectively two villages, a Bedouin village in
the south and the administrative center in the north. Like other areas in
the Sinai, Dahab remains popular among Israelis. Last week, many Israelis
visited during the long Passover weekend, but most had left by Wednesday.
When terrorists first struck in 2004, the government said the attack
appeared to be an extension of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. When
bombers struck again in Sinai, the government acknowledged that the two
attacks were linked, and that they had been carried out by residents of the
northern Sinai. For months, Egypt's security forces chased suspected
terrorists in the craggy mountains there.
Now Egypt is once again acknowledging a pattern, though officials said it is
far too soon to determine if the three blasts on Monday were connected with
the earlier attacks. The one in Taba occurred one day after a holiday
commemorating the October 1973 Arab-Israeli war. The one in Sharm el Sheik
occurred on July 23, or Revolution Day.
President Hosni Mubarak called the blasts a "sinful terrorist action" and
vowed to track down those responsible.
In Washington, President Bush also condemned the attacks, as did the
Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and Hamas, the militant group that
recently won control of the Palestinian government.
Early reports said that at least four foreigners had been killed in Dahab,
along with many Egyptians.
Amr el-Choubaki, a military analyst with the government-financed Ahram
Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo, said the three bombings
in two years demonstrated that there are small, liked-minded if independent
cells of terrorists operating in Egypt.
"Since Taba we are starting to see new clusters of cells that don't have a
comprehensive project," he said. "They are cries of objection aiming to harm
and pain the regime."
But he also said the attacks demonstrated a failure on the part of state
security, which he says has focused too much of its energy on political
opposition. "The security structure is distracted and busy confronting
opposition parties, judges and journalists," he said, "and is not making
combating terrorist organizations its primary goal."
The attack came one day after Al Jazeera television network broadcast an
audiotape said to be of Osama bin Laden. There was no evidence that Mr. bin
Laden or his Qaeda network was connected to the attacks.
Mona el-Naggar contributed reporting for this article.