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Bombs kill scores in Egyptian resort town

Attacks may be tied to October terror strike in another Red Sea resort

Saturday, July 23, 2005; Posted: 2:31 p.m. EDT (18:31 GMT)

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A soldier guards the Old Market in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, where 17 people were killed Saturday.
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SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (CNN) -- Investigators in Egypt searched Saturday for bodies and clues after near-simultaneous bombings at the Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh, attacks that killed at least 83 people and injured more than 200 others.

Authorities hauled in earth-moving equipment and began the painstaking work of searching through rubble left by the three early morning blasts. Egypt's interior minister said the attacks may be linked to explosions last October in the Red Sea resort of Taba.

"We are trying to find out who committed these crimes," Habib al-Adli told reporters while viewing the extensive damage at the Ghazala Gardens Hotel in Naama Bay, a popular tourism area of Sharm el-Sheikh.

That city is on the Red Sea at the tip of Sinai Peninsula. Taba is also on the Red Sea, on the Sinai near the border of Jordan.

"It is likely that they have some relationship to the Taba operation."

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who surveyed the damage Saturday, called the acts "cowardly and criminal."

He said the attacks will embolden Egypt's effort to fight terror.

"Terrorism is still approaching us from time to time with its ugly face," he said. "It is a blind terrorism which is expanding all over the world, terrorizing people and targeting them everywhere."

The three blasts are believed to have been two suicide car bombs and a planted bomb. It was Egypt's deadliest bombing in recent years.

In Egypt's northeastern Sinai Peninsula in October, attackers struck the Taba Hilton and nearby camping areas around Ras al Sultan and Tarabeen in a series of bomb blasts, killing 34 people. (Full story)

Al-Adli said it was not yet known who was behind the attacks, "but whoever it is, or whatever groups they belong to, this is ugly terrorism, and there's no humanity or values or feel of belonging in these acts."

Asked whether he thought the blasts might be related to Islam, he replied, "What Islam? This terrorism has nothing to do with any religion, because all religions do not allow aggression and do not allow killing civilians in innocence. Those don't belong to Muslims. They are a gang of criminals."

The bombings occurred on Egypt's National Day, which commemorates the 1952 bloodless revolution that brought a group of army officers to power after deposing King Farouk.

One suicide car bomb killed 17 Egyptian workers in a coffee shop at the city's Old Market, authorities said. The other suicide car bomber struck the Ghazala Garden Hotel, speeding past a security checkpoint and ramming the hotel's reception area before exploding.

The hotel lobby area collapsed, along with its roof. Video footage showed the Old Market area littered with broken glass and debris.

The third bombing -- an explosive device left in a bag -- killed six tourists at a beachfront parking lot and shuttle stop frequented by tourists, about two miles from the hotel.

The explosions happened about 1:15 a.m. (6:15 p.m. Friday ET), but the hotels and the market were crowded. "It's very hot here, so people go out and stay up all night," journalist Sandy Petrykowski told CNN.

At least 60 of those killed are Egyptian and at least eight are foreigners, the Interior Ministry said.

Hala el-Khatib, a spokeswoman for the Egyptian Tourism Ministry, said one person from the Czech Republic was killed.

The Italian Foreign Ministry confirmed an Italian's death and said 10 others were injured.

Witness felt building tremble

An employee at the Ghazala Hotel said she heard a huge explosion and felt the building tremble. Guests were being transferred to other hotels, and police cordoned off the area, she said. (Full story)

Video from Nile TV showed men at one site carrying body bags to emergency vehicles, and other bodies lying amid debris on bloody ground, covered by sheets or blankets.

"We are trying to comfort those touched by those explosions," el-Maghrabi said. "These groups, those criminal groups, will never be able to steal the right of people to move and travel. This is very unfortunate."

One husband and wife were awakened by the blasts.

"My wife and I were asleep and, basically, I just woke up because our house is made out of glass doors, and simply the glass started shaking really hard," said Ahmed Mansour, who lives in Sharm el-Sheikh, 7 kilometers (4 miles) from Naama Bay.

"I personally just thought it was an earthquake. ... Fifteen minutes later, I started to get phone calls from, basically, people asking us if we were all right," Mansour said.

Egypt had been operating under heightened security in recent days, Interior Minister al-Adli said, because of the bomb attacks in London.

CNN's Arwa Damon, Al Goodman, Alphonso Van Marsh and John Vause contributed to this report.

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