Egypt Searches for Answers After Deadly Bombings

Security forces are searching wreckage for clues after three explosions killed two dozen people in the Egyptian resort of Dahab on Monday. It's the third terrorist strike on a Sinai Peninsula resort in less than two years, and it came at the height of the tourist season. Renee Montagne speaks with Time Magazine's Scott MacLeod.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

In what Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has called a "sinful terrorist action," nearly two dozen people were killed and many more wounded when three bombs exploded in succession yesterday at an Egyptian beach resort. Dahab, on the Red Sea, was crowded with foreign and Egyptian vacationers when the explosions went off in the early evening. It was the third such attack at a popular resort on the Sinai Peninsula in less than two years. And like the previous ones, it came as Egyptians were celebrating a holiday.

Scott MacLeod is the Cairo Bureau chief for Time magazine and he's in Dahab. Hello.

Mr. SCOTT MacLEOD (Cairo Bureau Chief, Time Magazine): Hello.

MONTAGNE: Could you please describe for us the scene there today?

Mr. MacLEOD: Well, Dahab is a kind of quaint, little seaside village. It's pretty small and it actually is the place in the Red Sea that's favored by the kind of bohemian crowd, the hippies, as opposed to Sharm el-Sheikh, which attracts more up-market, five-star hotel kind of clientele. So it's a pretty laid back town. It's a town where a lot of people come to smoke hashish and they come to mix with an international kind of bohemian traveler set.

And so there's a lot of shock in the town today because the kind of people who are here are looking for peace, love and not war. And these people, you know, have had a rude awakening last night. You know, they were somewhat expecting it because we have had these other attacks in nearby resort towns on the Red Sea, but somehow this place was too sleepy, really, to bother with. And so people are pretty upset.

The scene this morning at the site of the bombings was basically cleanup and investigation. You had investigators with white gloves picking through the debris, looking for clues. You had divers going out looking for body parts in the sea, which was just a few yards, really, from the promenade where these bombs went off.

MONTAGNE: And the places being targeted?

Mr. MacLEOD: Well, in Dahab itself, what was targeted was the promenade where you have just one restaurant or small nightclub after the other. And these are basically open-air affairs, so when these three bombs went off, they were direct hits on everyone who got hit because there were--you know, there were no buildings or anything shielding people from the bomb blast. So that's why you had a relatively high death count even though these bombs, in comparison to the Taba bombing, which brought down half of a hotel and the Sharm el-Sheikh bomb, which did practically the same thing, these were pretty small bombs.

MONTAGNE: And the holiday being celebrated today, what did that have to do with this bombing, if anything?

Mr. MacLEOD: Well, nobody really understands why, but all three of the big bombing attacks in the Sinai Peninsula, which are believed, by the way, to have been carried out by local Sinai Islamic extremists, have occurred on major Egyptian holidays. This one was the eve of Sinai Liberation Day. And the previous attacks occurred on the anniversary of the Six-Day War in 1973 and on the day that Egypt's revolution overthrew the king of Egypt in 1952.

So we've had these major national holidays, they're not religious holidays, and the bombers have struck on these three occasions. No one's quite sure why, but it's interpreted as a symbol of attacking the state of Egypt.

MONTAGNE: And has the Egyptian government released any information about who exactly might be responsible?

Mr. MacLEOD: The interior minister gave a press conference a short while ago and he was very vague about what they believe or what they have found. He basically just said this is terrorism and terrorism doesn't discriminate against people. And we're gonna look into this and we're gonna find out who did it.

MONTAGNE: Scott, thank you very much.

Mr. MacLEOD: You're welcome.

MONTAGNE: Scott MacLeod is the Cairo Bureau Chief for Time magazine, speaking to us from the Egyptian resort town of Dahab.

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