Egyptian police arrested 10 people yesterday as divers began the task of retrieving human remains from the sea after Monday's triple bombing attack.
The onslaught on the Sinai beach resort at Dahab, at the height of Egypt's tourist season, killed 24 people and injured more than 80, many of them foreigners. Witnesses described scenes of havoc in Dahab's main hospital after the explosions. Holidaymakers told reporters of medics unable to cope with the injured victims and of botched treatments.
A local diving instructor, whose offer of blood to the hospital was refused, told local media: "I could see children bleeding everywhere - it was a nightmare."
The blasts injured at least 40 Egyptians, three Danes, two Britons, two Italians, an American and an Israeli, according to the Interior Ministry. The small town, which is popular with students and backpackers, has limited facilities compared to the larger resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, and was clearly overwhelmed by number of casualties. The injured were told by staff to "go to Sharm" - referring to the larger resort 50 miles to the south.
Many of the injured were eventually transferred to hospitals in Sharm el-Sheikh and Cairo. The two Britons hurt, Henry Luce, 60, and Sam Still, 75, have been transferred to the Nasser Hospital in Cairo. The British embassy said their injuries were not life-threatening, but a British doctor was being flown to Cairo to oversee their care. Embassy staff were still working to identify the remaining injured.
Israel, which closed a border crossing with Egypt following the blasts and issued a travel warning to its citizens, offered medical assistance but it was refused.
Zoheir Garana, the Minister of Tourism, refused to be drawn on the identity of the attackers.
Egyptian security services have conducted a shadowy campaign in the peninsula in the past 12 months, arresting more than 135 people they believe were related to the Taba bombings in October 2004.
Dahab has long held the reputation as Egypt's most relaxed holiday resort. But it was always the poor relation of nearby Sharm el-Sheikh, more popular with young backpackers than those with more money to spend. A slew of cheap eateries and bars line the seafront and nothing much happens quickly. Visitors sit on pillows, eat fish, smoke pipes and watch the stars.
Official sources, who have been keen to deny al-Qa'ida involvement in Sinai, are at odds about the means of attack. The governor of South Sinai province, Mohamed Hani, said on Monday that he thought suicide bombers were responsible, while local security officials were quoted as saying the explosions were from time bombs. The attacks were designed to maximise casualties against Egyptians, coming as they did on the busy holiday of Shem al-Nessim.
Over the past two years, more than 100 people have been killed in terrorist attacks in Sinai, leading commentators to conclude that the government is ineffective at handling the problem. Since Egypt's repossession of the Sinai in 1979, the expanding tourist industry has not benefited local Bedouin and some analysts believe the government has little real knowledge of the level of disaffection among local people.Reuse content