Egypt links deadly bombings

Egyptian investigators have found connections between the deadly bombings in Sharm el-Sheikh and another wave of attacks last October on Sinai resorts further north, security sources said on Wednesday.

A senior police source also said Egypt had received a warning following the July 7 London bombings that the Red Sea resort could be targeted.

“It is very likely that the latest explosions in Sharm el-Sheikh and those in Taba are closely linked,” the sources said.

“All clues so far indicate that the group that carried out the Sharm attacks used the same strategy and planning as that adopted by the perpetrators of the first wave of attacks.”

According to the health ministry, at least 67 people—including 16 foreigners—died in Saturday’s bombings. At least 34 were killed in October 7 triple bombings on the Sinai resorts of Taba and Nuweiba, further north.

The sources also pointed to similarities in the timing and the choice of target. Both attacks struck during a busy holiday season and in areas packed with foreign tourists, including holidaymakers from neighbouring Israel.

They also said that the explosives used in both attacks were very similar.

“Following the latest attacks in London, the Egyptian security services had received information that terror attacks could be perpetrated in Sharm el-Sheikh,” the police official said.

“The warning came four days before the three explosions rocked the city,” he said.

“Police forces were put on high alert and security was beefed up in the city, where police presence and checks were increased,” the same source said.

The official denied reports that security had only been strengthened around casinos, often packed with Israelis owing to a ban on gambling in their country, and that the warning was received more than a month before the attacks.

A flying roadblock set up temporarily near the old market area in Sharm el-Sheikh prevented the suicide car bomber from reaching a nearby hotel, South Sinai Governor Mustafa Afifi said on Monday.

Egyptian security forces have been sweeping the Sinai peninsula for suspects and comparing DNA sampled on the suicide bombers with that of suspects’ relatives.

Security sources said a known Sinai Islamist named Mussa Badran is suspected of being one of the Sharm suicide bombers.

He was arrested and later released following the Taba bombings.

The cell accused by the government of committing the Taba attacks consisted of a Palestinian and Egyptians, including several Bedouin.

The sources had earlier identified the alleged bomber as Yussef, confusing him with his brother Mussa.

As early as Saturday, Interior Minister Habib al-Adly had suggested connections between the two deadly attacks.

With crucial elections six weeks away and tourism as one of its main sources of income, observers argue that Egypt is keen not to be seen as harbouring foreign terrorists.

A senior security official, meanwhile, backed statements by Egypt’s ambassador to Pakistan on Tuesday ruling out any involvement in the triple attacks of six Pakistanis who had been suspected after reports that their forged passports were found in a hotel.

He said the six were illegal immigrants who are now believed to have crossed into Israel to seek work before the bombings even happened.

Many aspects of the investigation remain shrouded in mystery, with no clear direction emerging so far, contradictory information on the casualty toll and three different claims for the attacks.

Four days after the bombs ripped through the glitzy beach and dive resort, a question mark also hung over the death toll, with the health and tourism ministries saying 67 people had perished.

“The death toll stands at 67, among them 16 foreigners,” tourism ministry spokesperson Hala al-Khatib said on Tuesday.
Hospital officials had previously said that 88 people died.

Khatib refused to give the breakdown of nationalities but various reports suggested Italians, Turks and Britons were among the foreign dead, whose number is expected to rise further.

A previously unknown movement calling itself the Unity and Jihad Group in Egypt on Tuesday became the third organisation to claim responsibility for the attacks.

The group said it also carried out the October bombings.

Internet statements claiming responsibility for the Sharm attacks have already been posted in the name of Mujahedeen Egypt, and the Al-Qaeda Organization in the Levant and Egypt.—Sapa-AFP

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