The 5-Minute Briefing: Egypt's suicide bombers

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The Independent Online

Why has Cairo suddenly become so tense?

Why has Cairo suddenly become so tense?

Egyptian police have detained more than 200 people for questioning following two attacks on foreign tourists in Cairo over the weekend. Nine people, four of them foreigners, were injured.

Ihab Yousri Yassin blew himself up with a nail bomb near the Egyptian Museum. Police are still hunting for Yassin's brother Mohammed, who was present when Yassin's wife and sister later opened fire on a tour bus.

The three have been linked by police to a man who killed three tourists and himself in a nail bombing at a Cairo bazaar in April.

Two militant groups have claimed responsibility: the Mujahedin of Egypt and the al-Qa'ida-influenced Abdullah Azzam Brigades. Neither claim has been verified.

Why has there been an upsurge in violence?

Islamist groups in Egypt have undoubtedly been radicalised by the American occupation of Iraq and have become markedly more hostile to Westerners. Domestic frustrations are also a likely factor.

A spokesmen for the opposition Al-Ghad party said the violence was the result of an "environment of oppression and depression", a reference to the emergency laws the country has lived under since 1981. Many members of Islamist militant groups remain in jail despite the declaration of a truce with the government in 1997.

The Abdullah Azzam Brigades says Saturday's violence was revenge for the arrests of thousands of people in Sinai after bombings at two resorts there killed 34 people last October. But Egyptian authorities say the violence was a result of the government crackdown on a small militant cell it says carried out the 7 April suicide bombing.

How is the Egyptian government dealing with the crisis?

The Egyptian Prime Minister, Ahmed Nazif, is trying to play down fears that the attacks mark a return to the violence that plagued the country during a bloody campaign by Islamist extremists in the 1990s. Mr Nazif told Egyptian television: "I do not think any Egyptian agrees with such incidents which destabilise security and attempt to threaten the Egyptian society."

What impact will the attacks have on the tourist industry?

The Foreign Office has reviewed its travel advice for Egypt after the latest attack on tourists. While its website warns that there is "a continuing threat from terrorism throughout Egypt", and the situation is under review, it says that the "overall level of the advice has not changed".

The US embassy issued a warning advising Americans to "avoid tourist areas in Cairo until the threat environment becomes clearer".

Germany's main tour operators said they had suspended flights to Cairo.

Tourism is Egypt's biggest foreign currency earner, and the industry, which earned $6.6bn (£3.4bn) in 2004, has recovered after being severely hurt by the violence of the 1990s.