Bombings kill 29 in Egypt
TABA, Egypt – Israeli officials said Friday they believe al-Qaida was probably behind three suicide car bomb attacks targeting Red Sea resorts filled with Israeli tourists, as investigators searched for evidence and rescuers pulled bodies from the twisted wreckage of a five-star hotel and casino.
Thursday night’s bombings in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula killed 29 people, according to Israeli authorities, who were leading the rescue effort. Egyptian officials could confirm only 24 dead. More than 100 people were injured, with reports as high as 160.
Using everything from jackhammers and drills to dogs and bare hands, rescuers searched the wreckage of the Taba Hilton, site of the first and by far the deadliest of the bombings. But after turning on flood lamps as darkness fell on Friday, they did not expect to find many more bodies underneath the piles of concrete and metal, and appeared to be losing hope of finding survivors.
The number of missing was unclear. Israeli authorities had a list of about 100 people who had not yet checked in, said Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh, head of the Israeli Home Front Command.
Israelis fled the Sinai by the thousands Friday, and authorities across the border in the Israeli city of Eilat put them up in community centers while they arranged to get home. Many tourists complained bitterly about Egyptian authorities who they said initially prevented them from leaving their hotels.
The 10 p.m. explosion at the Hilton sheared outer rooms off a 10-story wing. A hotel employee sleeping on the third floor was blown 10 feet into the air and killed, her blood staining the ceiling. A mother and daughter fell from the seventh floor to the first, a plunge that killed the elder woman. Another woman died after falling two stories in a bathtub. Trees near the hotel were littered with the bodies of charred birds.
The attack was quickly followed by two more car bombings outside beach-bungalow camps south of Taba.
Participants in an emergency meeting of the Israeli Cabinet said the military intelligence chief told them al-Qaida was probably behind the attacks. Deputy Defense Minister Zeev Boim called Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network the most likely suspect.
Egyptian authorities were more cautious. “We have to wait until the investigation is over to make sure if the attack was related to al-Qaida, or any other organization, or not,” said Maged Abdel Fattah, spokesman for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
In Washington, a U.S. counterterrorism official, discussing intelligence on the condition of anonymity, said American officials suspect – but aren’t certain – that al-Qaida had a role in the bombings.