DAHAB, Egypt—Della Levanos scribbled on the chalkboard in front of her seaside bar Tuesday as Egyptian soldiers marched down the bloodstained promenade. "Stop violence everywhere," she wrote as tanned tourists looked on. "Stop all war."
There was no way to know if Levanos' plea would be read by whoever was responsible for the three nearly simultaneous bombings Monday that killed at least 23 people here and left business owners wondering if tourists will keep coming.
Egyptian authorities announced the arrests of 10 people in connection with the blasts, which struck in the early evening of a popular Egyptian holiday, just as the streets were growing crowded with tourists enjoying the sunset.
Two of those arrested were computer engineers who'd arrived here from Cairo on Sunday, according to MENA, Egypt's official news agency. Little else was revealed about who'd been arrested or why. There were no claims of responsibility.
Analysts said the explosions made it clear that the government had faltered in its efforts to contain terrorists, who've bombed three resorts along the coastline of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula in less than two years, killing 121 people.
Who's behind the bombings and what they want remain a mystery.
"It appears to be a quite well-organized, effective and sophisticated movement," said Hugh Roberts, the Cairo-based director of the North Africa Project for the nonpartisan International Crisis Group.
It's not clear, Roberts said, if the attackers are based in the Sinai, if they're allied with al-Qaida terrorists or if they're intent on bringing down the government of President Hosni Mubarak.
"The striking thing is that whoever is doing these is not fully explaining why they are doing it," Roberts said.
In Washington, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said four Americans were among the dozens injured and that President Bush had expressed his condolences in a phone call with Mubarak.
"The United States stands strongly with the Egyptian people as we wage this war and prevail in this war on terrorism," McClellan said. "We will continue to take the fight to the enemy abroad."
U.S. counterterrorism officials stressed that they didn't know who was responsible for the bombings.
"You can't rule out the possibility that it involved outside extremists," said one, who requested anonymity because the issue involved intelligence. "But at this point, there isn't evidence that points to al-Qaida involvement."
The official downplayed any link between the bombings and new tape-recorded threats by Osama bin Laden that aired Sunday, saying the timing was "probably more coincidental."
In Cairo, an Interior Ministry official, Col. Ashraf Galal, said investigators didn't know whether Monday's attacks were linked to the arrests last week of 22 members of an Islamist group that the government charges was planning bombings targeting tourists, a gas pipeline and Muslim and Christian religious leaders.
"We cannot rule out their involvement in this attack, but we have to wait after the investigations," Galal said.
The attack appeared likely to damage Egypt's vital tourist industry, which brings in $7 billion annually and employs 10 percent of the country's work force.
This vast coastline of cinnamon mountains and rustic resorts with names such as Escape Land and Dream Beach relies heavily on the divers, backpackers and other travelers who prefer more laid-back Dahab to bigger resort towns to the north and south.
"It's terrible for the community," said Levanos, who helps run her husband's bar, Tota, which is sandwiched between the sites of the first and second blasts. "It will mean financial ruin for a lot of people here."
Monday's bombings hit at what bartender Yasen Mohammed called "the magic time," when the sun is setting, the gulf breeze picks up and people begin to fill bars, coffee shops and restaurants.
The chaos was captured Tuesday in bloody footprints leading from demolished shops. Shattered glass littered the streets as store owners picked through the remains of spice shops, jewelry displays and restaurants.
Residents worked to wash the blood away. One witness said she saw part of a hand wash up on shore.
Many tourists tried to resume their vacations. Windsurfers cut across waves off the coast even as divers searched the water for body parts.
The shock was evident on the faces of bystanders, who occasionally broke down as they watched the cleanup or ran into someone they hadn't known was still alive.
In the afternoon, demonstrators marched past the bombed shops, chanting "Islam is not terrorist."
"I'm angry," 14-year-old Zohra Mzela said as she carried an Egyptian flag in the march. "I saw the bombing with my own eyes; I saw a little boy fall down. Why do they do this? We want peace."
The assault on Sinai tourism began in October 2004, when car bombs struck the resort area of Taba, killing 34 people. Nine months later, a trio of car bombs hit the town of Sharm el Sheik on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, killing 64.
The suspects in both attacks were young men from the Sinai Peninsula. After those blasts, Egyptian authorities rounded up hundreds of Bedouins from the region. It was unclear Tuesday whether any of them had been brought to trial.
Knight Ridder Newspapers correspondent Jonathan S. Landay and Knight Ridder Special Correspondent Miret El-Naggar contributed to this article.)
(c) 2006, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): EGYPT EXPLOSIONS
GRAPHICS (from KRT Graphics, 202-383-6064): 20060424 EGYPT EXPLOSIONS, 20060425 Sinai tourism
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