| Tourists leave Sharm el-Sheikh. (Reuters)
Sharm el-Sheikh (Egypt), July 23 (Reuters): Bombs ripped through shopping and hotel areas in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh today, killing at least 88 people and wounding 200 in Egypt’s worst attack since 1981.
An explosion in the Old Market area was followed by two blasts in Naama Bay, the site of most of the resort’s luxury hotels, where a car bomb tore the front off the Ghazala Gardens Hotel in the most devastating attack. A car broke into the hotel compound and exploded in front of the building, South Sinai Governor Mustafa Afifi said.
“It felt like an earthquake,” said Londoner Robert Hare.
The blasts came within minutes of each other, around 1.15 am local time (2215 GMT on Friday), when the bars and markets were busy in the resort popular with divers, European holidaymakers and statesmen who have attended world summits in the place Egypt has called “the city of peace”.
Most of the dead were Egyptians, but there were some foreigners among the victims.
“Everyone panicked,” said Dutch tourist Rene von Denberg. Bodies were strewn across the roads, people were screaming and sirens wailing.
Ahmed Mustafa, a waiter at a coffee shop near the first of the explosions, said a massive fireball tore through the car park outside a shopping mall. It turned cars into skeletons of twisted metal, blew down masonry on nearby buildings and shattered windows for hundreds of metres around.
Officials said a car had exploded but an eyewitness said a man had walked into a crowd with a large travel bag and announced in Egyptian Arabic: “I have a bomb.”
Some people moved away but others thought he was joking, said the witness, who asked not to be named. Two minutes later an explosion took place where he had put the bag, she added.
The third blast hit a taxi rank in Naama Bay, witnesses said.
A group claiming links to the al Qaida said it carried out the bombings, according to an Internet statement. The claim could not be authenticated.
Egyptian interior minister Habib el-Adli said it was too early to say if al Qaida was involved.