Egyptian authorities arrest 10 in coonection with resort blasts

Egyptian authorities Tuesday arrested 10 people in connection with a trio of blasts that left at least 18 dead and more than 80 wounded, casting a pall over this Bohemian-flavored beach resort.

Officials provided few details on the arrests, which were reported on state-owned Egyptian television a day after the near-simultaneous explosions went off along a promenade of open-air restaurants, bars and souvenir stores on the shore of the Gulf of Aqaba. It was the third bombing attack on the tourism-dependent Sinai peninsula since October 2004 and has renewed security worries in Egypt, which has close ties to the United States.

The government revised its casualty count to 18 dead, including 12 Egyptians and six foreigners, and 85 injured. Other counts placed the death toll as high as 24. The foreign victims were a German, a Swiss, a Russian, a Lebanese and two women whose nationality had not been determined, said Magdy Rady, a government spokesman. He said most of the injured were Egyptians.

It remained unclear how the Dahab bombings had been carried out, although officials appeared to be discounting the possibility of suicide bombers in favor of a scenario of carefully timed remote-controlled detonation.

Witnesses said the explosions came in quick succession shortly after 7 p.m. as many visitors, including large numbers of Egyptians celebrating the Sham el Nessim spring holiday or the end of the Coptic Christian Easter, strolled along the half-mile strip of shops and eateries.

"I saw dead people. I saw people mutilated. Smoke was coming out of their chests. I saw someone with his arm missing," said Ahmed Wasfy, an assistant manager at an outdoor cafe 50 yards from one of the three blast sites.

"Whoever did this is a terrorist, but a clever terrorist. He didn't lose anything. But he made everybody lose," Wasfy said. He scrutinized the faces of the dead at the hospital after the bombing, he said, in a frantic search for a friend, who later turned up unharmed.

Other witnesses reported an eerie hush as the bars and cafes stilled their music after the explosions. Although the blasts blew out several storefronts, including a jewelry shop named Mona Lisa, its effects were concentrated, suggesting that the bombs were not particularly powerful. Rady said most of the injuries were caused by flying glass.

By Tuesday morning, all of the wounded had been moved from Dahab's tiny hospital to better-equipped facilities in the larger resort of Sharm el Sheik, farther south, or in Cairo, the capital. Riot police clad in black surrounded the entrance to the Sharm el Sheik hospital, barring journalists and relatives of the wounded from entering.

Israelis, who flock to Sinai's beaches during holidays, Tuesday streamed north over the border crossing at Eilat in Israel. Thousands had been in Sinai during the recent Passover holiday, reports Los Angeles Times.

I.L.