- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 7, 2005

CAIRO — An explosion apparently set off by a man on a motorcycle hit an outdoor bazaar popular with tourists in Cairo’s Old City yesterday, killing two persons, including a French woman, and wounding at least 19, officials said.

The wounded were 10 Egyptians, two Americans, two Turks, two Italians, two French persons and one Briton, said Egyptian Deputy Health Minister Ahmed Adel.

Mr. Adel had said one of the victims was an American, but Egyptian Health Minister Mohammed Awad Tag Eddin later said the nationality had not been determined because the body had been severely mutilated in the explosion.

It was the first attack targeting tourists in the Egyptian capital in more than seven years. In the 1990s, Egypt put down a campaign of violence by Islamic militants who frequently targeted foreigners in a bid to bring down the government.

Two witnesses reported that a man on a motorcycle set off a bomb. Police said they were investigating a motorcycle found near the scene with nails scattered on the ground around it, but they would not confirm whether the blast was from a bomb.

The U.S. Embassy issued a warning to Americans to stay away from the blast area and to exercise caution throughout the city.

The blast occurred near a tour group in the al-Moski bazaar, a maze of narrow alleys with shops selling jewelry, souvenirs and clothes near the main tourist bazaar of Khan al-Khalili.

Police said the death toll may rise by at least one, with body parts strewn around the site of the blast, not far from Cairo’s famed Al-Azhar mosque.

The dead French woman was a tourist, said French Embassy spokeswoman Bernadette Abou Bechara.

Rabab Rifaat, an Egyptian woman who was shopping in a store near the blast site, said she heard “a boom, a horrible sound, very loud. Everyone started running.” She then saw a head flying through the air.

The explosion apparently was set off by a man who was either carrying a bomb or had it on his motorcycle, she said, adding that a large tour group was in the area at the time, buying items at a market.

Hundreds of police sealed off the area and two ambulances were at the scene. Tourists remained in Khan al-Khalili, several hundred yards outside the police cordon.

Khan al-Khalili is the most famous of several closely packed bazaars near Al-Azhar, one of the most prestigious Islamic institutions in the Sunni Muslim world.

The last major militant attacks occurred in late 1997. In September that year, two men fired automatic rifles at a tour bus parked outside the Egyptian Museum in central Cairo, killing 10 persons — mostly German tourists. A month later, militants killed 58 tourists and four Egyptians in an attack at the temple of Hatshepsut, a woman who had ruled as pharaoh, in Luxor.

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