Bomb blasts at Egyptian resorts kill at least 88

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Police confirmed there had been three car bombings.

One hit the Ghazala Gardens hotel, a four-star resort on the main tourist strip in the Naama Bay area of Sharm el-Sheik, which is popular with British tourists. The hotel was "completely burned down, destroyed", said Amal Mustafa, 28, an Egyptian who was visiting Sharm el-Sheik with her family and who drove by the hotel.

Two other blasts in the area were said to be at the bazaar and the Moevenpick Hotel.

The UK ambassador, Sir Derek Plumbly, told Sky News: "We believe that there are eight British people who have been injured. Three are still in hospital here, two have been evacuated to Cairo by air ambulance during the course of the night."

He was unable to confirm whetther any Britons had been killed, but said that 34 of those killed remained unidentified. "We can't say with absolute certainty how many, if any, British people there are amongst those. We're still trying to trace literally just one or two, but clearly we can't state with any certainty what these figures might be just at this moment."

Khaled Sakran, a Sharm el-Sheik resident, said that he saw the first blast from the Old Market area. "I saw the fire in the sky," he said. "Right after, I saw a light in the sky and heard another explosion, coming from Naama Bay."

Naama Bay has dozens of luxury hotels popular with divers and holidaymakers from Europe.

The first explosion, shortly after 1am local time (11pm BST), was audible more than 1km away, one resident said. It started a fire and smoke billowed over the town.

The blasts caused pandemonium as people rushed to go home for fear of more bombs, said one resident who asked not to be named. Other residents said the blasts blew out windows in apartment blocks.

Although the explosions took place after 1am, the bazaars would have been busy with holidaymakers at this time of year because the daytime is so hot, residents said.

The Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, has a holiday villa in the area of one of the reported blasts, but is not thought to have been there at the time.

Egypt's tourism industry, based on Red Sea resorts such as Sharm el-Sheikh and on its pharaonic-era ruins along the course of the Nile, proved resilient after earlier bombings in the Sinai peninsula in October, which killed 34. Those attacks were seen as targeting mainly Israelis.

Three tourists were killed and others injured in two bombings in the Egyptian capital Cairo in April and later that month a number of tourists were wounded in a bombing near the Egyptian Museum.

* A bomb exploded near a popular street in a Christian district of Beirut yesterday, wounding 12. It came hours after a brief visit by the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice.

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