- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 26, 2005

SHARM EL SHEIK, Egypt — Investigators have identified a man suspected in a suicide bombing in the weekend attacks that killed scores in this Red Sea resort as an Egyptian with ties to Islamic militants, officials said yesterday as dozens more people were questioned in the probe.

Security officials also said Egyptian authorities received information about an imminent terrorist attack in Sharm el Sheik days ahead of the devastating bombings. However, authorities believed the attack would target casinos, so security was increased around those sites, two officials said on the condition of anonymity because release of the information was not authorized.

The officials, who have knowledge of the investigation, would not say where the tip came from but that security forces were put on alert in the resort on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula several days before the pre-dawn Saturday attacks.

Instead of casinos, the bombers in two explosives-laden trucks targeted hotels just after 1 a.m. Saturday. One plowed into the Ghazala Gardens reception area, destroying the lobby. A second headed for another hotel but got caught in traffic and detonated before reaching its target.

Police using DNA tests identified one of the bodies found at the Ghazala site as Youssef Badran, an Egyptian Sinai resident who they said has links to Islamic militants, security officials said. Those links led the officials to suspect he was the bomber in the attack, they said.

Police held members of Mr. Badran’s family for questioning and were trying to determine his associates, the officials said. Across Sinai, security forces took in 70 persons for questioning yesterday, bringing to 140 the number held since the blasts.

Also yesterday, an Egyptian diplomat said Pakistanis were not involved in the bombings, despite police circulating photographs of five Pakistani men a day earlier.

There has been no direct link between the wanted men and the bombings, even though at least two security officials said the Pakistanis had flown into Sharm el Sheik from Cairo several days earlier.

Posters of the missing Pakistanis were put up in Cairo. Officials now say they are seeking the men for illegally entering Egypt.

Investigators are pursuing a possible connection to October’s bombings in two Sinai resorts farther north, Taba and Ras Shitan, that killed 34 persons, including many Israelis.

The Sharm el Sheik attacks had hallmarks of other al Qaeda-style operations — near-simultaneous bombings using a mix of techniques, including vehicle-borne and other bombs. Three groups took responsibility for the attacks.

The death toll stands at 88, according to the head of the Sharm el Sheik hospital that treated the victims, but Egypt’s Health Ministry has put it at 64. Hospitals said the ministry count excludes some sets of body parts.

South Sinai’s governor said Monday that 17 of the dead were non-Egyptians, including Westerners and citizens from other Arab states. One American, Kristina Miller, 27, of Las Vegas, was killed.

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