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Investigation Underway in Egypt Resort Bombings - 2004-10-08

Egyptian and Israeli emergency and security staff are sifting through the rubble of a hotel in Taba and two camping resorts in the Sinai peninsula looking for survivors and clues of Thursday's bombings that killed at least 26 people and injured more than 160 others.

According to Egyptian TV, President Hosni Mubarak has sent a plane with medical staff and equipment to Sinai to help treat survivors of the three explosions that took place at hotels and resorts there Thursday night. He has also authorized Israeli ambulances to enter the area and transport all Israeli wounded back to their country.

The Egyptian ministers of health and tourism have also traveled to the area.

Speaking with Egyptian Channel One television station, General Mustafa Fathi, governor of southern Sinai, described the situation at Taba.

"We are almost 90 percent done sifting through the rubble," said the governor. "Twenty corpses have been pulled out of the rubble," he added, "seven Egyptians, one Israeli, one Russian and 11 unidentified."

Twenty eight wounded were reportedly transported to the Taba hospital, including one Egyptian who died.

Investigators are also combing through the rubble of the Taba Hilton for clues to the bombing that destroyed a portion of the hotel. So far, burnt-out vehicles have been found at the site of two of the explosions, leading to the conclusion that car-bombs were responsible for the blasts.

The blast at the Taba Hilton hotel, a popular resort with Israeli tourists, collapsed the façade of the hotel and some of the lower floors, and set the building ablaze. Two other explosions took place a few hours later at camping resorts along the Red Sea. The attacks took place on the last day of the week-long Jewish festival of Sukkot, which was also part of a long weekend for Egyptians celebrating the anniversary of the start of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.

Several unknown Islamic groups have taken responsibility for the attacks, including the World Islamist Group and the Islamic Tawhid Brigades. Mohamed Salah, an expert on Islamic movements and a columnist at the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper, says it is highly unlikely the attack was carried out by one of Egypt's known Islamist groups. He also expressed doubt a Palestinian group was involved in the bombing, saying Hamas is much too close to Cairo to carry out such an operation.

Mr. Salah says, if this was an attack planned from outside (Egypt), then he leans toward the theory that it was carried out by a group like al-Qaida. He says the last broadcast statement attributed to al-Qaida's second-in-command, Ayman Al Zawahari, focused particularly on Israel.