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In Dahab, Bombing Was Sudden and Deadly

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In Dahab, Bombing Was Sudden and Deadly

Middle East

In Dahab, Bombing Was Sudden and Deadly

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And now the bombings in the Egyptian Resort of Dahab. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has called them a terrorist act, according to the state news agency. Three explosions shook the center part of Dahab, which is on the Sinai Peninsula, along the Gulf of Aqaba. At this point, at least a dozen people are reported dead and more than 150 wounded. Scott MacLeod is Middle East correspondent for Time magazine and he's with us, on the line from Cairo. Scott MacLeod, what's the latest that you've been able to learn about the situation in Dahab?

Mr. SCOTT MacLEOD (Middle East Correspondent, Time Magazine): There are reports that the Ministry of Health has estimated at least 30 people killed, and more than 100 injured in the attack today, or this evening. That's an update on the casualty figures as of now.

SIEGEL: President Mubarak spoke of it as a wicked terrorist act. Any elaboration on that from the government?

Mr. MACLEOD: No, but this is becoming a pattern that they're familiar with; in October of 2004 an actual suicide bomber attacked a Hilton hotel in the resort of Taba which is really smack against the Israeli border in the Sinai Peninsula and killed dozens of people in that attack and then, and there was actually an attack in Dahab on the same evening. It was synchronized, but it was a very small attack, and I think only one or two people died in the Dahab attack at that time. And then last July in 2005, there was a massive, again synchronized attacks in the resort of Sham al-Sheik which is the biggest and most popular resort in the Red Sea part of the Sinai Peninsula.

SIEGEL: So Dahab, if I have my geography right, is farther down the Coast of the Gulf of Aqaba than Taba and...

MACLEOD: Exactly.

SIEGEL: ...and again a tourist town, who typically would be there? Who would be the people in the hotels?

MACLEOD: Dahab has the reputation for being a kind of, you know, hippie town. It's not one of the high-class resorts where you find five star hotels and so forth. It's a diving resort so you go snorkeling of skin diving there. It's a smaller place than Sham al-Sheik which has really become quite a big town now, and very modern, there are hundreds of hotels including a lot of five star hotels. Dahab by contrast is more of a town, like, hostels and small hotels where, you know, backpackers and less affluent travelers would go. It is a place that has traditionally attracted a lot of Israelis and, ironically, it's maybe one of the few places in the Middle East where you could go into a nightclub or a restaurant or a bar and find a lot of Israelis and Egyptians Arabs mixing together, dancing, you know, being friends together. Because it was that kind of relaxed, kind of loose place and it attracted both Arabs and Israelis of that, you know, mindset.

SIEGEL: Now I have, I have been told that Dahab is also relatively close, it's on the coast, but inland, not too far from there is St. Catherine's Monastery. Is it a destination for Christian tourists and particularly in this Coptic Easter Season?

MACLEOD: Well the whole Sinai is just packed with tourists right now because it's the Egyptian school holidays as well as holidays for a lot of European countries like France, for example. So, the Red Sea area of Egypt has become a very popular destination for European tourists. I would say, you know, it's attracted a lot of Christians, but not particularly Christians. I mean, lots of people are just coming because it's the school holidays and they can get away with their families.

SIEGEL: Do people just assume this is the work of Islamists?

MACLEOD: It's a safe assumption. I think we have to wait for the evidence to come in, but there has been a pattern. It was fairly clear, although the Egyptians have not been very transparent about their investigations, it was fairly clear that Islamists carried out the previous two sets of attacks in the Sinai in the last two years, and this does seem to be a pattern. There may be an element of revenge in the attacks as well. You know, many people were arrested for the previous attacks and investigated...


MACLEOD: ...and some of the methods used in investigations here are pretty harsh.

SIEGEL: Thank you Scott, on that note I have to cut you off. Scott Macleod of Time Magazine talking to us from Cairo about the bombings in Egypt.

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