Five suspects were arrested this week in the Oct. 7 bombing of the Taba Hilton, while two remain at large.
Less than three weeks after two coordinated bombings killed 34 people at a Sinai Peninsula resort popular with Israelis, Egyptian authorities say they've identified their mastermind: A Palestinian resident of Egypt who scratched out a living driving a minibus.
The Interior Ministry said the Palestinian and Gaza native, Ayad Said Salah, had become a "religious fanatic" after serving time on a rape conviction and was incensed by the ongoing Israeli offensive in the nearby Gaza Strip. He and an Egyptian coconspirator were killed delivering a massive bomb to the Taba Hilton, just over the border from Israel. Most of the casualties were Israelis.
The ministry statement, which says the government has five plotters in custody, did not put to rest the question of how much, if any, help Mr. Salah's group had in carrying out the attack. Israeli security officials say they suspect Al Qaeda of involvement in the bombing. But the Egyptian statement indicated the nine men involved in the attack were a lone cell seemingly operating in isolation from other militant groups.
Egyptians have been at pains to paint the attack as directed at Israel and not an indication their own country is likely to be engulfed in a wave of Islamic terrorism similar to a spate of attacks in the 1980s and 1990s that culminated with the murder of nearly 50 tourists in Luxor in 1997. That attack devastated Egypt's tourism industry for years and helped drive the country into a recession.
"The motivation of the accident is clearly related to what's going on in the occupied territories, because the planner was a Palestinian who was negatively motivated by what's going on there,'' says Magdy Rady, spokesman for the Egyptian Cabinet, after a briefing from Interior Minister Habib el-Adly. "The detainees statements showed that there was no organization behind their attack."