04/25/2006, 00.00
EGYPT
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World condemns Dahab attack

 The Vatican has expressed its condolences. At least 23 people were killed in three bomb blasts in a crowded area last night. The attacks came only the day after a "call to arms" by Bin Laden. Hamas has distanced itself from the violence.

Cairo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Unanimous condemnation has heaped on the attack in Dahab, a key tourist centre of the south-eastern Sinai coast, where three bombs went off yesterday at 7.15pm in streets full of shops, restaurants and bars. They left terror and death in their wake: at least 23 people were killed – 20 Egyptians and 3 foreign tourists including a five-year-old German boy – and 62 were injured (the Health Ministry has put the figure at 83). Hotels and guesthouses were full for the parallel feasts of the Coptic Christian Easter and the Shem al-Nessim (spring feast).

"Profound sorrow and sadness" were expressed by Mgr Agostino Marchetto, president of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People. He also voiced "vivid solidarity with those who must face the consequences of this new underhanded blow against the Egyptian tourist industry, a driving force of the country's economy for the benefit of the population".

The Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak referred to the blasts as "sinful terrorist action". World leaders were quick to condemn the attack. The spokesman of the Palestinian government of Hamas described it as a "criminal attack against all human values. We denounce this attack against Egypt's national security". Last week, Hamas failed to condemn the suicide bombers who blew themselves up in Tel Aviv.

The bombs went off in the Ghazala supermarket and the Nelson and Alladin restaurants. "The streets were full of debris and I saw pools of blood," said one Belgian tourist.

The attack came a day after Bin Laden issued a "call to arms" to all Muslims to help al-Qaeda in what it calls a war against the "crusaders" of the United States and Europe, backers of "Zionism", who have suspended aid to the Hamas Palestinian government.

Tourism is key to the country's economy, with more than 8.6 million visitors in 2005. In recent years, terrorism has often targeted well known tourist localities packed with foreigners, with more than 100 killed over the past 18 months in the Sinai peninsula. On 22 July last, a suicide attack in Sharm el-Sheik killed at least 64 people and another 34 died on 7 October 2004 in bomb blasts in Taba and Ras Shitan on the border with Israel. Experts have noted similarities between the three attacks, each of which took place at nine months distance from the previous one. No one has claimed responsibility for them yet.

Israel, meanwhile, is worried: more than 20,000 tourists went from there to Sinai in recent days, despite warnings from the authorities about possible attacks. Mubarak's government, add experts, will use the attack as an excuse to reject pressure from the United States to implement political reform and to lift emergency laws in force since 1981.

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