CAIRO, Egypt — Police on Sunday detained about 200 people from the home villages of the three attackers responsible for a bomb blast and tour bus shooting near Cairo tourist sites the day before, authorities said.
The records of the detainees, from the villages of al-Ammar and Ezbet al-Gabalawi north of Cairo, are being examined for any connections with local terror networks, police said.
On Saturday afternoon, a man identified as a suspect in an April 7 bombing blew himself up as he leapt off a bridge during a police chase, officials said. Less than two hours later, two veiled women — reportedly the man’s sister and fiancee — attacked a tour bus. Egyptian police officials and the government-guided Al-Ahram newspaper said the bus was carrying Israeli tourists.
Nine people, four of them foreigners, were wounded in the apparent revival of violence against Egypt’s vital tourism industry.
Authorities: No return to violence
Egyptian authorities denied major militant groups have returned to the violence that plagued the country during a bloody campaign by Islamic extremists in the 1990s. They said Saturday’s violence was a result of the government crackdown on a small militant cell it says carried out the April 7 suicide bombing near a Cairo tourist bazaar that killed two French tourists and an American.
Tourism is Egypt’s biggest foreign currency earner, and the industry had made a strong recovery after the 1990s violence.
In an official statement Sunday, the opposition Al-Ghad Party said the violence was the result of the “environment of oppression and depression,” a reference to the emergency laws the country has lived under since 1981. Opposition groups have repeatedly called on President Hosni Mubarak to revoke the laws.
Mohammed Mahdi Akef, leader of the banned Muslim Brotherhood, said the attacks were “illogical and irresponsible” and condemned by tradition and religion.
“We only hope that these attacks do not stand in the way of political reform,” he said in a statement, acknowledging that Mubarak had no plans to end emergency law “whether these attacks take place or they don’t.”
“The country is in a state of anger and the people are suffering and these individual attacks are a reaction to the injustice,” Akef said.
Saturday’s attacks occurred within two hours and at locations just 2½ miles apart.
The Interior Ministry said the bombing was a result of the police roundup of those behind the bazaar bombing in early April. It said police earlier in the day captured two suspects — Ashraf Saeed Youssef and Gamal Ahmed Abdel Aal — in connection with that attack and were chasing a third, Ehab Yousri Yassin, on a highway overpass when he jumped off, setting off the nail-filled bomb.
The explosion in the center of Cairo, near the Egyptian Museum, included three Egyptians, an Israeli couple, a Swedish man and an Italian woman.
The two women who carried out the later shooting attack near the prominent historic Citadel site were identified as Negat Yassin, the bomber’s sister, and Iman Ibrahim Khamis, his fiancee, both in their 20s. After firing on the tour bus, Negat Yassin then shot and wounded her companion before killing herself. Khamis died later of her wounds. Officials said they acted in revenge for Yassin’s death.
Police officials said the women were waiting for any tourist bus to attack and did not know that Israeli tourists were on board.
Witnesses said police opened fire on the women. Two other Egyptians were wounded in the shooting, and none of the tourists on the bus was hurt, police said.
Women are not known to have carried out past attacks in Egypt.
'Criminal, un-Islamic acts'
The six-country Gulf Cooperation Council denounced the “criminal, un-Islamic acts that target innocent souls” and offered the alliance’s support to any measures taken by Egypt to stand up to these “cowardly terrorist operations.”
Two militant groups posted Web statements claiming responsibility for the twin attacks — the Mujahedeen of Egypt and the Abdullah Azzam Brigades. Neither claim’s authenticity could be verified.
The Abdullah Azzam Brigades said Saturday’s violence was in revenge for the arrests of thousands of people in Sinai after bombings at two resorts there killed 34 people last October. The group claimed responsibility for those attacks as well. Egyptian authorities have said the October attack was connected to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not domestic politics.
Fouad Allam, a retired general in Egypt’s anti-terrorism security apparatus, said there is no way to compare the recent attacks with those in the 1990s, which were led by larger, more organized groups that have since been marginalized by a protracted, harsh government crackdown.
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