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Tensions Still High in Dahab Following Monday's Bombings


In Egypt, a pair of suicide attacks on security forces near the Israeli border killed the two bombers but caused no other injuries Wednesday. But tensions remain high and security is tight in the wake of Monday's deadly triple bombings in the resort town of Dahab, where at least 18 people were killed and scores injured.

Two new suicide attacks Wednesday on multi-national peacekeepers and Egyptian police in north Sinai fueled anxiety that the bombings in Dahab might have marked the beginning of a more extensive terrorist campaign.

It is actually not clear whether they are related, but Egypt is jittery. Rumors are flying.

There were reports, apparently false, of an attack on police in a small town outside of Cairo, and then a bomb threat was phoned in on a building in Alexandria, causing police to sweep the area. They found nothing.

Meanwhile, the town of Dahab is trying to get back to normal. Most of the blood has finally been washed off the sidewalks.

Jewelry store owner Atef Fakhri Metri walks over the broken glass carpeting the floor of his devastated shop, the Mona Lisa Bazaar. One of the bombs exploded right outside.

He says the force of the blast almost ripped one of his employee's arms off, and he points to a large patch of dried blood on the floor left behind by another injured worker.

It will take some time to repair the physical damage to Metri's shop, but he does intend to reopen.

In the shop next door, three employees were killed.

Dahab is a small town, where it seems that everyone knows everyone else. Restaurant owner Adel Swissy says for locals, the bombs' damage was not just physical, it was emotional.

"There is a lot of sadness and agony," he said. "You cannot see it, but it is felt. This is not about money or business. I saw what happened. It was dreadful."

In other parts of town, things have started to get back to normal, at least on the surface. Down the street, two restaurants targeted by a different bomb reopened Wednesday, with bouquets of flowers leaning against a nearby tree in memory of those who were killed there. A small group of people stood in the street outside, urging every single person passing by to stop in for a visit.

"So whoever fancies a coffee this morning, or breakfast or lunch or dinner even, we would like to ask you to come to Aladdin and to Al Capone and give us support," said Katrina Hunke, a German woman who has lived in Dahab on-and-off for seven years.

She does not own or work in either of the bombed restaurants, but is drumming up business on behalf of her friends who do. She says the point is to send a message, that people in Dahab will not be intimidated.

"The people you see are the first ones sitting down this morning, but everybody is very supportive," she added. "And when I am explaining to them, they understand that this is not about business, this is about [making] the statement, which is fantastic. Actually, it gives me goosebumps when people put their hands on my shoulders and say we're coming, we're coming. Yalla, we're going."

Although most locals are determined to get back to business, the big question is whether there will be business to get back to.

Tourism is the lifeblood of Dahab. Behind the shows of solidarity, there is great anxiety about whether the tourists will stop coming in the aftermath of the attacks.

Although the Al-Ghazali supermarket was just a few meters from one of the bombs, it is also open, and doing a brisk business. The manager, Helmi Fawzi, is not sure how long that will continue.

"Only God knows that," he said. "We hope it doesn't have a long-term effect, but it might. I hope things return to normal, but it is in their hands. The tourists will decide whether to come back or not."

Other residents, and many tourists, say they believe the town will recover. The coral reefs offshore are among the most famous scuba diving and snorkeling sites in the world, and it is hard to imagine that they would not continue to attract visitors.