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Explosions rock Egyptian resort town Sharm el-Sheik targeting 2 hotels
(AP) -- Multiple explosions struck the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula early Saturday, targeting a hotel and killing at least 62 people, witnesses and police said. The Ghazala Gardens Hotel and the Moevenpick Hotel were the targets there, one witness said.
Saturday's explosions at 1:15 a.m., when many tourists would have been asleep, shook windows a mile away. Smoke and fire rose from Naama Bay, a main strip of beach hotels in the desert city popular with Israeli and European tourists, witnesses said.
At least 62 people were killed and 200 wounded in at least three explosions in Naama Bay and the Old Market area nearby, an Interior Ministry official said.
Amal Mustafa, 28, an Egyptian who was visiting with her family, said she drove by the Ghazala Garden -- a 176-room four-star resort on the main tourist strip in Naama -- and it was "completely burned down, destroyed."
Khaled Sakran, a resident, said he saw one explosion from the Old Market. "I saw the fire in the sky," he told The Associated Press. "Right after, I saw a light in the sky and heard another explosion, coming from Naama Bay."
"The blast shook my house, I can see the fire and lots of smoke," Akram al-Sherif, a Jordanian who was staying at a summer house less than a mile away, said.
In October 2004 a series of explosions hit several hotels in the Sinai resorts of Taba and Ras Shitan, about 100 miles northwest along the Gulf of Aqaba coast, killing 34 people. Egyptian authorities said that attack was linked to Israeli-Palestinian violence and launched a large wave of arrests in Sinai.
Thousands of tourists are drawn to Sharm for its sun, clear blue water, and coral reefs.
It also has been a meeting place where world leaders have tried to hammer out a Mideast peace agreement. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas met there in February and agreed to a cease-fire.
(Reuters) - Forty-nine people died on Saturday when a string of suspected car bombs ripped through bazaars and tourist hotels in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, officials said.
The region's governor said 49 died in two car bombs and another explosion, and a rescue official said at least 136 were wounded.
Britons, Dutch, Qataris, Kuwaitis and Egyptians were among the casualties, police sources said.
Shaken tourists spoke of mass panic and hysteria as people fled bomb after bomb, with bodies strewn across the roads.
The rescue official, who asked not to be named, said many wounded were Egyptian workers who had gathered at a cafe in the old market.
The official said 17 of the dead were burned beyond recognition by the explosions, apparently caused by up to seven car bombs planted near hotels and bazaars frequented by tourists.
The blasts came within minutes of each other shortly after 1 a.m., at a time when many tourists were still out in bars and markets in the popular and hitherto safe resort.
"I have never been so scared in the whole of my life," British tourist Samantha Hardcastle told BBC television.
"The explosion we felt was very violent and the hotel we are staying in shook," she said. "It was absolutely horrific."
A police source said one bomb appeared to have exploded near the bazaar in Sharm el-Sheikh itself, with at least three more in the luxury hotel strip of Naama Bay about six km (four miles) away, popular with divers and holidaymakers from Europe.
A tourist bazaar, the Ghazala Gardens Hotel and the Moevenpick Hotel were the targets there, he said. One witness said a taxi rank was also hit.
"Many of the injuries are very serious and they are in critical condition," said a doctor at Sharm el-Sheikh International Hospital who asked not to be named.
Fire and smoke billowed over Sharm el-Sheikh after the first explosion there, one resident said.
Residents said the blasts shook homes 10 km (six miles) away and blew out windows closer to the blasts.
Charlie Ives, a London policeman on holiday after dealing with the aftermath of bombings in the British capital, said he and his wife tried to get away from the scene of a first bomb only to witness a second one four minutes later.
"The whole area was quickly covered in debris. There was a huge ball of smoke that mushroomed up, it was mass hysteria," he told BBC World television.
Tourist Fabio Basone told the BBC the front of one hotel had been completely blown away, with car and shop windows blown out.
"People were trying to run in any direction to get away, but were not clear where to go," he said.
"We condemn this act in the strongest possible terms. There can be no excuse for the targeting of innocent civilians," a State Department spokesman said in Washington.
Tourists have been targeted in Egypt in earlier attacks.
Three tourists were killed and others wounded in two bombings in the Egyptian capital Cairo in April.
In October, 34 people were killed by car and truck bombs at resorts popular with Israelis, mostly at the Taba Hilton on the Israeli border. Those attacks were further north, on the eastern coast of the Sinai Peninsula closer to Israel.
Tourism is a major source of revenues and employment in Egypt, which needs to create about 650,000 jobs a year for its youthful population. Some analysts say Egypt attracted extra visitors this year after many avoided tsunami-hit Asia.
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