Islamic Group Claims Egyptian
CAIRO, Egypt. Saturday, July 23, 2005 — A
group that says it has ties to the Al Qaeda terror network is claiming
responsibility for the bombing of an Egyptian resort that killed at
least 83 people.
The group, which calls itself the Abdullah Azzam Brigades in Syria and
Egypt, posted a statement to an Islamic Web site saying its "holy
warriors targeted the Ghazala Gardens hotel and the Old Market in Sharm
The authenticity of the statement could not be immediately verified.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak flew into Sharm el-Sheik and went
directly to the scene at the Ghazala hotel. Heavily armed security
forces guarded Mubarak as he walked past the bomb-ravaged complex and
spoke with officials.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice released a statement denouncing the
attack on the popular vacation destination.
"I condemn the horrific terrorist bombings in Sharm el Sheikh. Our
thoughts and prayers are with the families and innocent victims from
many nations who suffered in this senseless attack," Rice said. "I have
spoken with Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit. At this difficult time of
testing, the United States stands with our friend and ally Egypt.
Together we will confront and defeat this scourge that knows no
boundaries and respects no creed."
Early Saturday morning, three car bombs ripped through the hotel and a
coffee shop packed with European and Egyptian tourists. The blasts began
at 1:15 a.m., shaking windows of buildings miles away. The explosions,
which followed each other in quick succession, sent plumes of smoke
rising above Naama Bay, a main strip of beach hotels in the desert city.
A total of 83 people had been confirmed dead, said Dr. Saeed Abdel
Fattah, manager of the Sharm el-Sheik International Hospital where the
victims were taken. Among the dead were two Britons, two Germans and an
Italian, he added. Czech officials said one Czech tourist was also
killed. Rescue workers were still searching for victims at some attack
Italy's foreign ministry said one of the victims, a 34-year-old Italian
man identified as Sebastiano Conti, was killed and 10 other Italians
"Terrorism has no nationality," Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazief
told The Associated Press. "This is a terrorist act and ... can't be
explained or justified."
The reception hall of the luxury Ghazala Gardens hotel collapsed into a
pancaked pile of concrete, sending terrified guests fleeing for safety,
according to an Associated Press reporter at the scene. Rescue workers
hours later said they feared more victims may be buried in the rubble.
Tourists stumbled about the darkened, charred streets as Egyptian
rescuers searched for the dead and injured. Ambulances sped away with
victims. Details on the explosions were sketchy, due to the hour they
went off and Sharm's remote location.
"There seemed to be a lot of bodies strewn across the road" near one
cafe, British policeman Chris Reynolds, visiting from Birmingham,
England, told the BBC by telephone. "It was horrendous."
The Ghazala was "completely burned down, destroyed," Amal Mustafa, 28,
an Egyptian who was visiting Sharm with her family, told The Associated
Press after driving by the site. Television video of the hotel, a
three-story complex, showed parts of the building burned out with walls
Another car bomb exploded in the Old Market, an area a few miles away,
killing 17 people — believed to be Egyptians — sitting at a outdoor
coffee shop, the control room official said. Three minibuses were set
ablaze. It was not clear if they were carrying passengers, the official
Another blast went off near the Movenpick Hotel, said a receptionist
there who declined to identify himself.
Although many tourists could have been asleep when the explosions
struck, the resort's sidewalk cafes, seafront restaurants and bazaars
are usually packed with locals and tourists well into the late summer
Mubarak has a residence at a resort several miles outside Naama Bay and
spends weeks there at a time in the winter. But during the summer, he
stays at a residence in the northern city of Alexandria.
A London police officer, Charlie Ives, who was on holiday, told BBC
Television that he was in a cafe about 50 yards away from two of the
"It was mass hysteria really. We tried to calm people down," he said.
"[The blast was so strong], we were virtually thrown from the cafe."
Another British tourist, Fabio Basone, was in Naama Bay's Hard Rock Cafe
when he heard a small explosion, then a larger one.
"We went outside on to the street where we were met with hundreds of
people running and screaming in all directions," he told BBC. "I saw the
front of a hotel had been blown away. ... There were two bodies on the
floor but I don't know if they were dead."
Scores of ambulances from cities in the northern Sinai and the Suez
Canal cities of Suez and Ismailiya were headed to Sharm to help with
Khaled Sakran, a resident, said he saw one explosion from the Old
"I saw the saw the fire in the sky," he told The Associated Press.
"Right after, I saw a light in the sky and heard another explosion,
coming from Naama Bay."
Kurtis Cooper, a State Department spokesman, said the United States
condemned the attacks and offered assistance to the Egyptian government.
"There can be no excuse for the targeting of innocent civilians," Cooper
Pope Benedict XVI deplored the attacks, calling them "senseless acts,"
and appealed to terrorists to renounce violence.
Thousands of tourists are drawn to Sharm for its sun, clear blue water
and coral reefs. It also has been a meeting place where world leaders
have tried to hammer out a Mideast peace agreement. Israeli Prime
Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas met there in
February and agreed to a cease-fire.
Egypt has been the site of several deadly attacks on places frequented
by tourists. In October 2004, a series of explosions hit several hotels
in the Sinai resorts of Taba and Ras Shitan, about 100 miles northwest
along the Gulf of Aqaba coast, killing 34 people. Egyptian authorities
said that attack was linked to Israeli-Palestinian violence, prompting a
wave of arrests in Sinai.
Saturday's bombings were the deadliest since 1997, when Islamic
militants killed 58 foreign tourists and four Egyptians at the Pharaonic
Temple of Hatshepsut outside Luxor in southern Egypt.
Source: Fox News
The Associated Press contributed to this report.