In Egypt, resurgence of militant Islamists
Third Sinai blast in 18 months shows new strength of domestic terror groups.
CAIRO AND BAGHDAD
Three bombs spaced just minutes apart ripped through the crowded Egyptian beach resort of Dahab on Monday, killing at least 18 people and confirming the extent to which domestic terror groups have reestablished themselves after years of relative peace.Skip to next paragraph
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It's the third time since October 2004 that Egypt's popular Sinai Peninsula beaches have been targeted. Prior to that first attack - three suicide bombs that killed 31 at Taba - Egypt had not experienced any terror attacks since 1997.
After each previous strike, Egyptian authorities sought to paint the bombings as isolated incidents that could be prevented in the future by stepped-up security measures. But while analysts say that the government was successful in dismantling domestic terror networks of groups like Jemaah Islamiyah and Islamic Jihad in the 1990s, the intellectual roots of modern Islamist militancy run deep in Egypt and appear to be bearing new fruit.
Egyptian police said they weren't sure if Monday's bombs at two cafes and the Ghazali supermarket were suicide attacks or not. The government said Tuesday that it had made 10 arrests. Four of the dead were foreign tourists, the rest Egyptians.
Egypt has moved hundreds of officers into the area, shut most of the roads out of the city, and established a network of checkpoints.
Dahab, once the playground of backpackers and hippies, saw $500 million in new investments last year. Like the rest of the peninsula's beaches, it has shifted toward higher-spending tourists.
Since the tourism industry rebounded well after each of the past two attacks, the mood in Dahab in the wake of the latest attack was grim, but hopeful. Tourism is Egypt's second-largest foreign-currency earner.
"The workers and business owners here are very angry," says Emad Nawar, a Cairo real-estate agent on vacation in Dahab. "I've talked to some who just finished a small business project that they were about to sell. Still, they hope that business will bounce back quickly like it did after the Taba bombings."
In addition to attacks on the Sinai, there have been at least three smaller terrorist incidents involving tourists in Cairo since 2004. In the 1990s, domestic terror groups targeted tourism in an effort to undermine the country's finances, to devastating effect. The 1997 attack on foreign tourists in Luxor sent Egypt into a deep recession.
Memories of that past are still fresh for some. "It's a disaster," says Mohamed Kabany, owner of Dahab's Inmo Hotel. "It could mean that we won't have business for the next year or two."
Still, many average Egyptians were furious at the attackers, which offers hope, since anger at the Islamic Jihad in the 1990s helped undermine support for that group. "No religion, not Islam or Christianity, accepts killing," says Lamia Farouk, a young mother in Cairo. "The people who did this are deranged."
It was business as usual in Dahab Tuesday despite the bombings, according to sources there. Shops opened, as did restaurants. Hotels reported few early checkouts. Tourists were out enjoying the sun, residents said.