- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 10, 2004

TABA, Egypt — A Bedouin tribesman has confessed to selling explosives that might have been used in three deadly car bombings targeting Israeli tourists, and investigators were looking into possible Palestinian militant involvement, Egyptian security officials said yesterday.

The tribesman said the buyers, whom he could not identify, told him that the explosives would be used in the Palestinian territories, an Egyptian investigator said.

“The explosives were sold on the assumption that they were going to the Palestinians,” the official said on the condition of anonymity.

The Egyptians reportedly have asked Israel to provide information about specific Palestinians who have entered Egypt recently.

Three car bombs, each packed with about 440 pounds of explosives, were detonated the night of Oct. 7 — one at the Hilton Taba Resort just south of the Egypt-Israel border and two at Ras Shitan, a Red Sea town of beach bungalows 35 miles south of Taba.

Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh, head of the Israeli army’s Home Front Command, said that in addition to the Isuzu pickup truck that exploded at the Hilton Taba Resort, a suicide bomber detonated another bomb inside.

“To our relief, the bomber who entered the hotel did not enter the hotel restaurants, something which would have brought down at least half the hotel,” Gen. Naveh said.

Egypt has put the death toll at 34. Gen. Naveh, speaking in Taba, said at least 32 bodies had been found, plus body parts that may include the remains of others. The dead included Egyptians, Israelis, Italians, a Russian woman and others from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

Israeli rescue officials said 12 Israelis have been positively identified among the dead, and a few Israelis were still unaccounted for. It was not clear whether more Egyptians or other nationals were still missing.

Egyptian security officials said some of dozens of Bedouins detained for questioning after the car bombings have been cooperating with authorities and have provided valuable information about explosives.

Israeli officials previously have complained about weapons and explosives being smuggled into the Gaza Strip from Sinai, which borders the Palestinian territory. The Israelis maintain that the weapons come through tunnels beneath the Egypt-Gaza border.

Palestinian and Egyptian officials also said that Egyptian security and intelligence officers have been discussing the attacks with officials from the Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

The Egyptians were seeking information about members of the groups who are upset about Egypt’s plan to help secure the Gaza Strip if Israel withdraws. Egypt has come under fire from some Arabs for supposedly aiding Israel; Egypt maintains that it needs to ensure stability along its border in the event of a security vacuum left by Israel’s departure.

The officials said Egypt is not suggesting that the two groups were behind the attacks, but it is probing the possibility that disgruntled defectors from the groups might have been involved.

These discussions were taking place in Gaza and in some Middle East capitals, one official said without identifying the cities.

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