DAHAB, Egypt: Police were questioning some 30 people yesterday in connection with the attacks. Security officials say three of those being detained, three computer engineers. They are identified as Moumen Farouk Mohammed, Ali Karim Ashraf Abdallah and Maged Ali Mahmoud, and arrived at the resort on Sunday and left an hour after the attacks.
The three men were all in possession of phony papers, police say. The bombs claimed the lives of 24 people, of which 21 were Egyptians earning a modest living. No confirmation yet on whether they were in fact remote detonated or suicide bombings.
A large chalkboard outside the Tree Restaurant on the town’s promenade reads “Peace, in Arabic, “Salaam, in Hebrew, “Shalom. Chalked on to an even larger sign next door, a message: “The name will never change: Sinai, the land of peace.
As life slowly returns to normal in Egypt’s Red Sea resort town of Dahab, frequented by young backpackers and “hippies, local residents whose incomes thrive on the influx of tourists have begun speculating on the impact the attacks will have on them. As the investigation takes on full precedence, the small beach town is packed more so with journalists and security than with tourists.
Already experiencing a fallback in pedestrian traffic since many tourists opted to flee the city, shopkeepers and hotel workers alike say the terrorists attacked their livelihood when three separate bombs destroyed the Latern Restaurant, Caponi Restaurant and Madonna Bazaar respectively.
“[Terrorists] are damning our homes, damning everything they touch, said an emotional Mohammed Abdel Mohsen Bakry standing above footprints of blood outside the Caponi Restaurant.
This latest incident is the third deadly attack targeting Sinai resort towns in less than a year and a half. Last July, more than 80 people were killed when three consecutive bombs ravaged a hotel, market and parking garage in Sharm El-Sheikh. In October 2004, a bomb brought down an entire wing of the Hilton Hotel at the Egypt-Israel border town of Taba, leaving 34 people dead who were mostly Israeli tourists. In 1997, militant Islamists massacred 58 tourists at an ancient temple in Luxor.
“I am definitely worried, 100 percent, says a discouraged Galal Mohammed, owner of the Post book store, as he sits behind the cash register in his empty shop. “When Taba and Sharm [El-Sheikh] were hit, we were affected here for several months. Now we’ve been hit, so of course it will hit us. No foreigners will come if they think they’re being targeted. We depend on foreigners.
Hundreds of locals marched down the promenade in the Tuesday afternoon heat carrying banners condemning terrorism and chanting praises to God. “We love peace; we love tourists they called out, as the remaining sunbathers watched along the sidelines.
Following the attacks on Sharm El-Sheikh last year, tourism experts immediately predicted an estimated 30 percent loss to tourism revenues.
“I think it’s going to be affecting tourism for the near future, Hisham Ali, President of the Investor’s Association of South Sinai Ali told The Daily Star Egypt following the July 2005 attacks. “We have to go to the other market very quickly. Tourism is a vital lifeline for all of Egypt’s resort towns. Israeli tourists alone bring in an estimated $150 million to Egypt’s economy. Since the bombings in Taba, the Israeli government has released travel warnings regularly urging citizens not to travel to Egypt, often citing “reliable and precise intelligence of an attack in Sinai. “Unfortunately, the warnings came true, Shalom Cohen, Israel’s ambassador to Egypt told Israeli television. Egyptian tourism officials say Egypt earned a record $8 billion in tourism in 2005. Officials say that the increase between 2004 and 2005, despite the bombings in Taba, is an indication of what is to come. Dahab residents are skeptical. “[My husband] has lost hope, says Amal Mahmoud, whose husband has not reopened his jewelry shop since the Monday night attacks. “He’s been here almost as long as the Bedouins. These people who died are like his children. He’s really lost his will.