Security forces at checkpoints in the Sinai Peninsula distributed pictures of five Pakistanis as the search continued Monday for suspects in Egypt's worst terrorist attack. Meanwhile, a senior investigator suggested that although foreigners might have played a role in the planning, the people who carried out the bombings Saturday were apparently Egyptians.
The developments added a wrinkle to an intensive investigation that has so far focused on links to bombings in October 2004 at and near the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Taba, near the Israeli border. A senior investigator has said the style of Saturday's operation, its explosives and its targets bore the hallmarks of the 2004 attack, which killed 34 people at a hotel and two beaches.
The men's pictures were distributed at some traffic stops, which dot the 300-mile road from Sharm el-Sheikh to Cairo, the senior official said. News agencies identified the men as Mohammed Anwar, 30; Rashid Ali, 26; Mohammed Aref, 26; Musaddeq Hussein, 18; and Mohammed Akhtar, 30. The pictures bore the men's names and passport numbers.
The involvement of non-Egyptians, still far from clear, would recast the investigation, adding a foreign context to an attack that investigators have said appeared to be homegrown. It would suggest that the attack in Sharm el-Sheikh, a series of three bombings unleashed after 1 a.m. Saturday, drew on a far broader network, whose aims were perhaps more international in scope. The attack has already sent Egypt's stock market stumbling and cast a pall over the tourism industry.
Brig. Hossam Serafi, the chief of investigations in South Sinai, which covers Sharm el-Sheikh, cautioned against drawing conclusions from the police pursuit of the men, whom he declined to call suspects.
"They are only people who are missing from their hotels," he said. "We are searching for them as missing, not as accused."
In Islamabad, Mohammed Naeem Khan, a spokesman for Pakistan's Foreign Ministry, discounted any link between the men and the attacks in Sharm el-Sheikh, which destroyed the facade of the luxury Ghazala Gardens Hotel and tore through a crowded arcade of shops and businesses near a parking lot along Naama Bay, blessed with some of the world's most pristine coral reefs.
Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, asserted that the al Qaeda network was too weak to organize terrorist attacks from his country, according to the Associated Press.
"We have shattered and eliminated their command system," he said.
This weekend, Serafi said investigators were focusing on a possible network in El Arish, a town in northern Sinai on the Mediterranean Sea. Egyptian officials had blamed the 2004 bombing in Taba on a cell there that was led by a Palestinian resident and drew support from local Bedouins. The investigation led to the arrest of 3,000 people and allegations of abuse and torture.
Two men went on trial in Egypt for those attacks Saturday. A third man, still at large, was being tried in absentia, and some security officials have speculated that he might have played a role in Saturday's bombings.
On Monday, a senior official said investigators believed that the assailants in Sharm el-Sheikh were Egyptian. He cautioned against drawing any conclusions but said there was a possibility the network could be broader than first thought.
"The execution is clear to us. Those men are close to us. Those men are Egyptians," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "The Pakistanis might have had a role in the preparation or the planning, but this is only speculation at this point."
The government has put the toll from Saturday's bombings at 64, although it acknowledges that the number does not include body parts that have yet to be identified. Hospital officials said this weekend that 88 people were killed.
Mustafa Afifi, the governor of South Sinai, said that 17 foreigners were killed in the attack, which prompted hundreds of tourists to depart. Among the dead was an American, Las Vegas native Kristina Miller, who was vacationing in Egypt with her British boyfriend. Her family said she had celebrated her 27th birthday Friday night, just hours before the three bombs tore through the resort.
"I told her be careful, have a great birthday and I love her and I will call her and talk to her the next day. And that was the last time I talked to her," her father, Anthony Miller, told ABC's "Good Morning America."
In the first political fallout from the bombings, Egypt fired its two security chiefs for the Sinai Peninsula. After past high-profile attacks, such as the massacre of 58 tourists and four Egyptians in November 1997 in Luxor, the government reshuffled its top security posts. That attack led to the resignation of Interior Minister Hassan Alfi, who was replaced by the current chief, Habib Adli.
In Washington, President Bush said the United States stood "shoulder to shoulder" with Egypt in fighting violence and terrorism. "The people who struck in Sharm el-Sheikh killed Muslims, innocent mothers and dads, people who were trying to make a living. They have no heart, they have no conscience, and they have no ideology that is hopeful. And they have an ideology of hate," Bush said at the Egyptian Embassy, where he signed a condolence book.
Staff writer Robin Wright in Washington and special correspondent Nagwa Hassaan in Cairo contributed to this report.