Two Britons among 88 dead as al-Qa'ida bombs hit resort

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A number of Britons were feared dead last night after three bombs tore through the Egyptian resort of Sharm el Sheikh earlier in the day, killing at least 88 people.

Possibly as many as 200 others were believed wounded in the blasts, which occurred early on a sultry Saturday morning in the holiday spot popular with UK tourists. Among the injured were at least eight Britons, including two who were critically ill ­ a 14-year-old girl and a 30-year-old man who were airlifted to a military hospital in Cairo.

There were conflicting claims of responsibility, from the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, a group linked to al-Qa'ida, and the previously unknown Holy Warriors of Egypt, who named five people they claimed were the bombers. The Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, condemned the perpetrators as "evil people", while the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who visited the scene, vowed to hunt down the "cowardly" bombers. The US President, George Bush, offered his support. The British ambassador, Sir Derek Plumely, said: "We now believe there are a number of British dead. "

An estimated 9,000 Britons were thought to have been in the resort when the three bombs hit. Two massive car bombs, possibly detonated by suicide attackers, went off simultaneously at 1.15am, a little more than two miles apart. One car was packed with 300kg (660lb) of explosives and slammed into the reception of the Ghazala Gardens hotel in Sharm's Na'ama Bay, the main strip of hotels. Two floors at the front of the Ghazala Gardens hotel were completely destroyed by the blast.

The second bomb weighed about 200kg and exploded in a nearby area called the Old Market, frequented mainly by Egyptians working in the town's resorts. A third bomb, believed to have been hidden in a sack, detonated at around the same time close to a walkway where tourists stroll at night. Egyptian police were last night seen interviewing witnesses at the scene as remnants of blood-soaked bandages and shoes lay on the ground.