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Terrorist Attacks Breed Speculation, Anxiety in Egypt  - 2004-10-09


Explosions at three resorts along Egypt's Red Sea coast on Thursday killed 33 and wounded over 120, many of them Israeli tourists. Seven Egyptians also died. This is the first terrorist attack in Egypt since the Luxor massacre in 1997 when 58 tourists were killed. Egyptian media and public are debating who might be responsible and worrying about the consequences of the attacks.

Israeli military intelligence says it suspects al-Qaida of carrying out the attacks. Egyptian authorities have said they are conducting investigations but that it's too soon to say who is responsible.

Many Egyptians feel their country is as much a victim of the attacks as Israel, and fear the negative effects the attacks will have on international perceptions of Egypt, says former Egyptian diplomat Abdullah Al-Ashaal. Mr. Al-Ashaal also expresses a widespread anxiety over the effects on Egypt's tourism, a key economic sector.

"In Taba and in Nuweiba, in this area, the Israelis may have been targeted, but at the same time Egypt as well is targeted, and the tourism in Egypt, which is one of the biggest sources of national income, is also in danger," he said.

Ingy Ghannam is the news editor for the popular website Islam Online. She says the site has created a forum for debating the causes and consequences of the attacks, and that there have been hundreds of posts there.

"There are different reactions," said Ingy Ghannam. "First of them maybe is shock. You know in Egypt there have not been any attacks for some time now. You know people are really shocked that it's coming back on Egyptian soil, attacks on civilians and tourists in specific. Other people are searching for who to blame. I mean they have different scenarios for who is behind the incident, and who did it and who is benefiting from it.

Ms. Ghannam also says many Egyptians link the attacks to the deteriorating situation in Israeli-occupied territories. Israeli forces have been carrying out a major incursion into Gaza in the last week, causing a death toll of as many as 92 Palestinians. Dov Weisglass, an advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said earlier that the Gaza withdrawal was part of a plan to shelve the peace process and delay the creation of a Palestinian state.

Amr Abd El-Meguid, a civil engineer who lives in Cairo, expresses a common sentiment when he says there will be no end to violence in the Middle East until the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is equitably resolved.

"Of course we don't support what happened, because these [the tourists in Sinai] are our guests," he said. "But I just want to emphasize the fact that terrorism will continue as long as the depression the Palestinians are facing [continues]. Terrorism will continue unless something happens, unless the road map comes back in place, unless they feel some hope for the future. Otherwise violence will continue."

Meanwhile, Ms. Ghannam says that Egyptians are very concerned about renewed terrorism, and are confused as to who is responsible.

On Islam Online's chatboard, one poster calls those responsible "our freedom fighters in Palestine." Another writer suggests that al-Qaida is a front for Israel's secret service, the Mossad, and that the attacks will allow Israel to establish a presence in Sinai.

Yet another poster responds: "The fact that you question who performed these murderous acts is silly. They were carried out by sick murderers that have no value for human life. The same people who cut off heads, and make videos are the ones who must be killed."

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