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Egypt: Authorities Launch Manhunt After Resort Bombings

Sharm El-Sheikh yesterday Egyptian authorities reportedly have detained 70 people for questioning after bomb attacks yesterday killed at least 88 people in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has vowed to hunt down those behind the bombings. Egyptian Interior Minister Habib al-Adly says authorities already have some leads. Meanwhile, tourists are leaving the resort city in droves.

Prague, 24 July 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Egyptian President Mubarak says yesterday's attacks have increased Egypt's determination to fight terrorism:

"To the families of the innocent victims, I send you my condolences and assure you that I will continue to fight terrorism and everything which represents a threat to our nation, a threat to its people," he said. "Our fight against terrorism will continue with all our powers and might. We will protect the security and stability of Egypt. We will protect the people from any future threats and dangers."

Yesterday's bomb attacks in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh killed at least 88 people -- most of them Egyptians. At least 119 people were injured. There were three explosions - including two apparent car bombings. They devastated a hotel, a car park, and a market.

Officials say at least 34 of the victims have yet to be identified. At least seven Western tourists have been confirmed among the dead so far. They include two Britons, two Germans, an Italian, and a Czech.

Egyptian Interior Minister Habib al-Adly says authorities already have some leads in their investigation. A group calling itself the "Abdullah Azzam Brigades, Al-Qaeda," has claimed responsibility on a website used by Islamic militants.

Islamic militants in Egypt have direct connections with Al-Qaeda. Ayman al-Zawahri, the alleged chief lieutenant for Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, was the head of the group Al Jihad. That group is one of the two major militant groups that wrecked havoc in Egypt during the 1980s before al-Zawahri joined bin Laden in Afghanistan.

Al-Jihad and another group, Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiyah, had joined forces to assassinate the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in October of 1981. Abu-Yasir Taha, the leader of Al Gamaa Al Islamiyah, also has joined forces with bin Laden.

Both groups had expressed the goal of overthrowing President Mubarak before they took their struggle to the international stage. Their primary goals are now to get U.S. forces out of the Middle East -- particularly Saudi Arabia -- and to overthrow what they consider to be corrupt Arab leaders like Mubarak and the House of Saud. The groups also are thought to have supported Palestinian militants as well as the insurgency in Iraq.

Yesterday's bombings have economic as well as political ramifications for Egypt.

Sharm El-Sheikh is Egypt's most prominent tourist resort at the attacks occurred at the height of the summer tourist season. Tourism is worth more than $6 billion a year. Earlier, Egyptian officials had projected that 8 million tourists would visit their country during the next year. But industry experts now say it will be difficult to reach that goal.

Many tourists at Sharm El-Sheikh say they are ending their Egyptian holiday early.

Among them is an Irish man who identified himself as Chris. "We were supposed to be here for another week but we are actually flying home tomorrow -- flying home a week early," he said. "So we are just waiting to get transported to another resort. And then we are going to get a flight home tomorrow afternoon."

An Irish tourist named Tarni said it would be psychologically difficult, as well as inappropriate, to stay in the place where so many people have just been killed.

"I don't feel that we can stay here with the bomb being here. The people who work here have maybe known people who have died. And we don't feel that it is right to stay here on holiday while it is so awful," Tarni said.

But at least one tourist, an Israeli man named Etan, said he will not be traumatized by terrorism. "We wouldn't change our plan because something like this can happen in other places," he said. "And I think people from Israel know very well that this is something that, unfortunately, you should live with."

Before yesterday, the worst terrorist attack against Egypt's tourism industry came in 1997 when Islamic militants with assault rifles killed 58 foreign tourists and four Egyptians near the southern city of Luxor.