- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 26, 2005

SHARM EL SHEIK, Egypt — Police said yesterday that they were searching for five Pakistani men in their widening investigation into Egypt’s deadliest terror attack, which killed scores of people, including an American, at this Red Sea resort.

Egypt fired its two security chiefs for the Sinai Peninsula after the Saturday bombings in their region. The Health Ministry said 64 persons were killed, but hospitals put the toll at 88, saying the ministry count does not include sets of body parts.

Early yesterday, police conducted a sweep in a desert mountain area about 24 miles from Sharm el Sheik’s main strip of hotels after receiving a tip that several unidentified men had been seen fleeing in that direction, security officials said.

Police at checkpoints around this resort also were circulating photographs of five men suspected of being among nine Pakistanis who arrived in Sharm el Sheik from Cairo on July 5, said two investigators, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the probe’s sensitivity.

The five were identified as Mohammed Anwar, 30; Rashid Ali, 26; Mohammed Aref, 26; Musaddeq Hussein, 18; and Mohammed Akhtar, 30. The pictures, which gave the suspects’ names and passport numbers, also were on posters put up in Cairo, apparently out of concern that the men had been in the capital either before or since the attacks.

Officials did not say that the men were known to be connected to the bombings. One senior official said the men had overstayed their visas and that police were looking into any illegal activity in the wake of the blasts.

A Pakistani involvement would suggest that those behind the bombings belong to a much wider terror network than previously thought.

In Washington, President Bush signed a condolence book at the Egyptian Embassy and said the people responsible for the blasts “have no heart.”

Mr. Bush said his visit was meant to “reiterate my country’s strong desire to stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Egypt and bring justice to those who killed innocent people.”

Egyptian security forces have detained more than 70 people in Sharm el Sheik and other parts of the Sinai since the bombings.

On Sunday, police said they were hunting for three bombers who may have escaped after the attack. They said a fourth attacker apparently was a suicide bomber who crashed a pickup truck laden with explosives hidden under vegetables into a hotel lobby.

Investigators also are probing whether the attacks were carried out by a Sinai-based network thought responsible for the October bombings in the Sinai tourist resorts of Taba and Ras Shitan, about 125 miles north of Sharm el Sheik. Those attacks killed 34 persons.

Police said Sunday that they were conducting DNA testing on the remains of a suicide bomber found Saturday in a car that rammed into the Ghazala Gardens Hotel in Naama Bay, the city’s main tourist area. Two other blasts rocked a parking lot near the hotel and an area about two miles away called the Old Market.

Egyptian authorities have portrayed the Taba bombings as an extension of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rather than a homegrown Islamic militant movement or an al Qaeda-linked operation. They said a Palestinian who died in the attacks had recruited Bedouins and Egyptians to plot the bombings.

But the sophistication of the Sharm el Sheik bombings — and their occurrence on the heels of two rounds of attacks in London — raised worries of an international connection.

The involvement of Pakistanis in the attack in Sharm el Sheik would be unprecedented, as non-Egyptians rarely have been linked to attacks here.

It also would be difficult for a group of young Pakistanis not to be noticed in Sharm el Sheik, one of the most heavily policed cities in Egypt and a favorite residence of President Hosni Mubarak.

Pakistani involvement also would increase suspicions that Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network may have been involved. The Saudi-born bin Laden is popular among militant Pakistani groups and is known to enjoy support in tribal areas close to the Afghan border.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide