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Bombs Kill Scores At Egyptian Red Sea Resort

Prague, 23 July 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Car bombs have ripped through a market and hotels in Egypt's popular Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh. At least 88 people were killed, most of them Egyptians, in the country's worst attack in nearly a decade.

The bars and markets in Egypt's posh Sharm El-Sheikh resort were still busy with people enjoying a Friday night out.

Then shortly after 1 a.m., the first bomb exploded in the town's market area. At least two others followed in quick succession in the resort's upscale Naama Bay district.

In the most devastating, an explosive-laden car -- possibly driven by a suicide bomber -- rammed into the luxury Ghazala Garden hotel.

Tourists spoke of mass panic, with bodies strewn across the roads, people screaming, and sirens wailing.

This eyewitness was in a nearby hotel: "First bomb explodes there is great sound, in my hotel, the windows are open. After there is a second explosion less than the first, everybody get out there rooms to go to beach because the bombs are in the hotel, so everybody go."

France, Russia, and the United States were among the first countries to condemn the attack and send condolences.

Then came a claim of responsibility -- from an Al-Qaeda-linked group, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades in Syria and Egypt, that said it was behind a deadly bombing at another Egyptian resort several months ago. The authenticity of the claim could not be verified.

As he surveyed the carnage today, Interior Minister Habib al-Adli vowed to catch the perpetrators, whoever they are.

"Those who committed the incident, whatever be the group they belong to, this is an awful act, an act of terrorism," he said. "It is a show of terrorism which does not reflect any humanity or values nor affiliation. Whatever the incident, this will not affect the determination of the security forces to get those who committed this crime."

Sharm El-Sheikh is where President Hosni Mubarak has hosted world leaders and a Middle East peace summit. Mubarak canceled a holiday on the Mediterranean today to fly to the Red Sea resort.

The town draws thousands of tourists for its sun, clear blue water, and coral reefs. Egyptian Tourism Minister Ahmad al-Maghrabi vowed today that the attacks would not hurt Egypt's crucial tourism industry, which is still recovering after last October's bombings on resorts further north that left at least 34 people dead.

But with at least eight foreign tourists among the dead, this morning's attacks appear to deal Egyptian tourism a fresh blow.

(compiled from agency reports)