Egypt's worst terror attack kills more than 80, signaling jihad has come home.
Editor's note: This story was originally posted July 23, 2005.
Two powerful car-bombs struck at the heart of Egypt's $6 billion tourism industry early Saturday, killing 83 people from at least 5 countries. Officials say the death toll is likely to rise.
The bombs in Sharm al-Sheikh, a vibrant resort town that is the hub for the popular beaches and dive spots along Egypt's Red Sea, confirmed to analysts that the global jihad has come home to its intellectual birthplace after eight years of surprising calm.
Three bombs exploded in the city between 1 and 1:15 a.m. on Saturday morning, two car-bombs that witnesses said were still moving when they exploded, according to Associated Press, and a smaller bomb on a popular tourist walk near the beach. Most of the damage was done at the Ghazala Garden's Hotel, where the lobby was reduced to twisted medal and rubble, while at least 19 Egyptians were killed at a café in Sharm al-Sheikh's old city.
Egypt's first terrorist attack since 1997 came last October in a series of coordinated suicide attacks on the resort of Taba, along the Israeli border, that killed 34. Those attacks were followed by two smaller attacks on tourists in Cairo this April that killed three foreigners.
What ties the Taba, Sharm al-Sheikh and Cairo attacks together is that they were all attacks on Egyptian tourism, the country's largest foreign currency earner, and in that sense were clearly attempts to weaken Hosni Mubarak's regime. "Tourism is the main money earner, and if you hit that you hit the state," says Josh Stacher, a political scientist in Cairo. "You can't blow up an army induction center or get at the country's leaders, so you hit tourism."
The car-bombing in Taba, and the April attacks in Cairo were presented by the Egyptian authorities as carried out by a small group of radicals with no ties to existing Islamist organizations. The government has said repeatedly that it had caught or killed everyone involved.