updated 10/13/2004 3:33:01 PM ET 2004-10-13T19:33:01

Egyptian authorities are investigating whether 17 suspected al-Qaida members arrested while illegally entering Libya are connected to last week’s coordinated bombings at Sinai tourist resorts that killed 34 people, an Egyptian official said Wednesday.

Egypt has asked the Libyan government whether the suspected militants were arrested after the Oct. 7 attacks, the official said on condition of anonymity.

Libya’s Interior Ministry announced the arrests Sunday, three days after car bombs blew up at the Taba Hilton and two bungalow campgrounds an hour’s drive south, killing Egyptians, Israelis, Italians and Russians. The ministry did not elaborate on the arrests or the suspects, except to say they were from the Indian subcontinent and Central Asia.

Conflicting claims
Also, a fourth separate claim of responsibility for the attacks was posted on the Internet Wednesday by a group identifying itself as “Muhammed’s Army — The Military Wing of the Palestinian Resistance.” None of the four claims has appeared particularly credible.

The latest claim appeared on a Web site known for its Islamic militant content that has been used in the past to post claims of various attacks.

“We announce our full responsibility for the heroic operation ... that targeted a hotel in Taba where Israeli Mossad (intelligence agents) and Americans were meeting,” said the statement, which contained several simple Arabic grammar mistakes.

It said the perpetrators fled the scene after “kidnapping a number of Zionists from Sinai who were taken to safe areas” to negotiate for the release of Palestinian and Arab prisoners in Israel. It also threatened to attack Israel with “unique” missiles but did not elaborate.

The group said the delay in announcing the claim was because of “the Egyptian army’s pursue of the holy warriors.” Muhammed’s Army is unknown in the Palestinian territories, but groups by the same name reportedly have operated in Iraq, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

The Iraqi Muhammed’s Army is believed to consist of former members of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s security services.

Three other previously unknown groups also claimed responsibility, including the Brigades of the Martyr Abdullah Azzam, which said it was affiliated with al-Qaida; the Tawhid Islamic Brigades; and Jamaa Al-Islamiya Al-Alamiya, or World Islamist Group. No group offered details of how it carried out the attack.

Egyptian investigation, security
A senior Egyptian Interior Ministry official said Wednesday that investigators have learned more about how the attackers arrived at their targets, but he would not be more specific.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, could not confirm an Egyptian newspaper report that the attackers who bombed the Taba Hilton and two bungalow campgrounds in Ras Shitan fled minutes before their vehicles blew up. Al-Ahram’s report, contradicting claims that the attacks were carried out by suicide bombers, said none of the four attackers had been apprehended.

Egypt’s semi-official Middle East News Agency, meanwhile, reported that cars would not be permitted to park near Red Sea coast hotels on Egypt’s mainland, across the sea from Sinai. New security measures ordered by Saad Abu Rida, the governor of Red Sea province, also included registering all travelers to provincial resorts.

Since Thursday’s attacks, police have tightened security around hotels, airports and tourist sites throughout Egypt, increasing manpower, searching cars and using dogs to sniff for explosives.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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