CAIRO, Egypt—Two suicide bombers detonated explosives in Egypt's northern Sinai Peninsula on Wednesday, killing only themselves, but unsettling a country still recovering from triple blasts Monday that killed 24 and wounded as many as 160 in a tourist resort on Sinai's Red Sea coast.
Officials said the bombers apparently were targeting international peacekeepers in one bombing and Egyptian police in the other near the town of El-Arish. Links to Monday's bombings were unclear, however, and both officials and independent analysts said they couldn't comment on a possible tie until investigators complete their work.
Egyptian officials have long blamed Sinai unrest on local Bedouin tribes while insisting that the Bedouins have no ties to terrorist groups such as al-Qaida. In the aftermath of a bombing at the resort city of Taba in 2004, Egyptian security forces arrested 2,400 Bedouins in connection with the explosion. As many as 80 local Bedouins were arrested after Monday's bombings in the town of Dahab.
An Interior Ministry statement said the second of Wednesday's bombings involved a Bedouin on a bicycle who blocked a police car carrying two Egyptian officers responding to the first bombing. The bomber blew himself up, but neither officer was injured.
The first bombing occurred near an airport used by U.N.-supervised international peacekeepers assigned to police a 1979 peace agreement between Egypt and Israel. The Interior Ministry said an Egyptian police officer and two members of the Multinational Force and Observers were on the way to the airport when they passed a man holding a package. As they passed, the package exploded. They weren't harmed, the statement said.
Egyptian authorities gave new figures for dead and injured in the bombing in Dahab, saying 24 people had been killed and 160 injured. Most of the dead and wounded were Egyptian.
Interior Ministry officials refused to speculate on the motive for Monday's bombings, which struck as Egyptians were enjoying a long weekend that coincided with the Coptic Christian celebration of Easter and of Sinai Liberation Day. It marks the anniversary of Egypt regaining control over the entire Sinai Peninsula in 1986 from Israel.
While declining to speculate on Wednesday's blasts, independent analysts said they believe the Dahab bombing was linked to two earlier bombings of Sinai tourist resorts—the Taba bombing in 2004 and attacks in Sharm el-Sheikh last year.
Diaa Rashwan, an expert on Islamist movements at the Ahram Center for Strategic Studies, called the relationship among the three attacks "definite." He noted that all took place on national holidays, targeted tourist resorts and involved simultaneous bombings.
The Taba bombing in October 2004 came on the 31st anniversary of Egypt's 1973 war with Israel. The Sharm el-Sheikh bombings came on July 23, the anniversary of the Egyptian revolution.
Rashwan said there was no evidence linking al-Qaida or Osama bin Laden to the attacks.
"Neither Osama bin Laden nor Ayman al-Zawahri have praised any of the attacks, which shows the attackers weren't Islamists from their group," Rashwan said, referring to the Egyptian cleric who is bin Laden's No. 2.
(El Naggar is a Knight Ridder special correspondent.)
(c) 2006, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
GRAPHIC (from KRT Graphics, 202-383-6064): 20060426 Sinai blast
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