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Egypt Uses Soldiers, Turns to Mosques in Aftermath of Bombings

One week after the bomb attacks, the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh is still reeling. At least 64 people are dead, more than 120 injured and those behind the attacks are still at large. The authorities have visibly beefed up security and are turning to the mosque to condemn the violence.

There is no shortage of police and soldiers around. The usual checkpoints on roads leading into Sharm el-Sheikh have been visibly beefed up. In the town, uniformed and plain-clothes police patrol the streets and mingle in the shopping areas, keeping a closer than usual eye on traffic and passers by.

The governor of the southern Sinai province, General Moustafa Afifi, told VOA stringent security measures were already in place before the attacks.

The governor added that despite this there can be no guarantees - anywhere. And, he said the best one can do is be prepared.

The authorities are giving few details about the investigation, but many people have so far been detained, mostly from the surrounding area. Governor Afifi says some of them may have been involved in the bombings, others may simply have valuable information.

The hunt for those behind the bombings is going on well out of sight of Sharm el-Sheikh residents or visiting tourist. It's taking place in the rugged mountains of the Sinai Peninsula. Police, with the help of local Bedouin guides, are combing the countryside and have had several shootouts with what the authorities are calling "criminal" fugitives, some of whom may have ties to the bombers.

Several militant groups have claimed responsibility for last Friday's attacks, including an alleged al-Qaida affiliate.

Governor Afifi will only say no definitive conclusion can be drawn until the investigation is over. But he is sure about one thing, that the masterminds of the operation are from outside Egypt.

He says Sharm el-Sheikh was selected as a target because it is internationally known. He says the attacks were well planned and he believes a bigger organization is behind them.

In the aftermath of the bombings, the government is also turning to the mosque to condemn such violence and get the word out that it's wrong and un-Islamic.

Mahmoud Zakzouk, Egypt's Minister of Endowment, the government body in charge of the country's mosques, says the message going out from the pulpits is clear.

He says, the endowment is responsible for 92,000 mosques throughout Egypt and on this Friday from every pulpit the message would be the same, that such violence is against Islam.

The Grand Sheikh of Al-Azzar, Egypt's oldest and most revered religious institution, was in Sharm el-Sheikh Friday. Sheikh Mohamed Sayed Tantawi led Friday prayers in the town's central mosque.

He told worshippers that the bombings were wrong, that violence against innocent people is wrong, that it's not allowed in Islam and that those who carry out such attacks in the name of Islam, be they in Sharm el-Sheikh or London, are criminal, not martyrs for their faith.

The Sheikh's message was compelling. The question is, are the right people listening?