Blasts in Egypt Kill at Least 88
Saturday, July 23, 2005; 1:21 PM
CAIRO, July 23 -- At least three explosions Saturday ripped through the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, one of Egypt's most popular tourist destinations, killing at least 88 people and wounding 200 more, police and witnesses said.
Residents reached by telephone said the explosions, at least one detonated by a car bomb, were audible miles away. They shattered windows and unleashed pandemonium in the resort, which is crowded with Israeli, European and Egyptian tourists in the hot summer months. Residents said fireballs shot into the nighttime sky, followed by white and gray smoke that hovered over buildings, which sit along the scenic southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula.
In a statement late Saturday, an official source at Sharm el-Sheikh International Hospital told wire services there were 88 dead and about 200 injured. Earlier, authorities had put the number at 65 dead. Egyptian authorities flew many critically injured people to Cairo.
Most of the victims were Egyptians, but a Tourism Ministry spokeswoman said seven non-Egyptians were dead, including a Czech and an Italian, and that 20 more were injured.
The injured foreigners were nine Italians, five Saudis, three Britons, a Russian, a Ukrainian and an Israeli Arab, spokeswoman Hala el-Khatib told reporters. But the British Foreign Office in London said eight Britons were injured.
In a short statement read on television, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said: "This will only make us more determined to pursue terrorism and dig it out by the roots ... We will not give in to its blackmail, or seek a truce."
World leaders condemned the bombings. The White House called the attacks "barbaric" and said President Bush had spoken to Mubarak to offer help to the victims and "bringing the perpetrators of these acts to justice."
"It's a mess," Mohammed Abbas, who lives near one of the bombing sites, said by phone. "My first impression when I saw the smoke coming from the hotel was that a boiler had exploded. It was so strong. All the glass of the shops and offices were destroyed."
The first explosion struck about 1 a.m. in the resort's Old Market, a place of shops and tourist attractions still crowded late at night, residents and the ministry said. The second struck a few minutes later at the Ghazala Gardens Hotel, a 176-room resort in Naama Bay, and a third explosion tore through a parking lot in the same area, the ministry and witnesses said.
There were conflicting accounts on other explosions. Residents said a blast also struck near the Moevenpick Hotel, and news agencies quoted officials as saying there may have been as many as seven explosions, in what would mark a coordinated campaign in a country that has put a high priority on ensuring security for its lucrative tourist industry.
"The explosions went off one after the other for about 15 minutes," Noha Gaafar, a tourist in Naama Bay, near the Ghazala Gardens Hotel, said in an interview with the Arab network al-Jazeera.
The Ghazala Gardens Hotel appeared to be the hardest hit, with the blast striking its facade and spilling debris into the street. Residents said they believed the blast was caused by a car bomb parked in front of the hotel, near the reception area.