- The Washington Times - Monday, February 23, 2009

CAIRO | An attacker threw a grenade into a famed bazaar in medieval Cairo, killing a Frenchwoman and wounding at least 21 people — most of them foreign tourists, officials said.

The blast hit the bustling main plaza at the Khan el-Khalili, a 650-year-old bazaar packed with tourists buying souvenirs, jewelry and handicrafts. It was last attacked in April 2005, when a suicide bomber killed two French citizens and an American.

Sunday’s blast outside a cafe sent a panicked rush of worshippers from the nearby Hussein mosque. Security officials said the attacker escaped, and within an hour, police found a second grenade and detonated it safely.

“I was praying and there was a big boom and people started panicking and rushing out of the mosque, then police came and sealed the main door, evacuating us out of the back,” said Mohammed Abdel Azim, 56, who was inside the historic mosque. Outside, blood stained the marble paving stones.

A frantic woman screamed at police sealing off the area to let her look for her daughter.

A medic at the scene said the Frenchwoman died in the intensive care unit of the nearby Hussein hospital.

The wounded included three Saudis, 10 French, a German and three Egyptians, said Health Minister Hatem al-Gibali. He told the state news agency that the wounds were largely superficial, though one French victim needed surgery.

He said most would be released from the hospital by Monday.

The outdoor cafes and restaurants lining the square were packed with crowds, including a large group of Irish tourists at Mohammed Said’s Al-Sinousi Cafe.

“There was a big loud boom. Everybody ducked,” the cafe owner said. “I ran out to figure out what’s happening.”

The blast sent crowds scrambling in all directions, he said.

A police colonel said the small explosion outside the cafe kicked up stone and marble fragments, which wounded the passersby. All the officials describing the blasts spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

Egypt fought a long war with Islamic militants in the 1990s, which culminated in a massacre of more than 50 tourists in Luxor in 1997. The rebels were largely defeated, and there have been few attacks since in the Nile Valley.

There were, however, a number of attacks in recent years against resorts in the Sinai Peninsula, including one in Sharm el Sheik in 2005 that killed more than 60 people.

Tourism is one Egypt’s major sources of foreign income.

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