CAIRO, Egypt – Two suicide bombers tried to attack international peacekeepers and police in the Sinai Peninsula on Wednesday, blowing themselves up just two days after nearly simultaneous bombings killed at least 21 people at the Sinai beach resort of Dahab.
Egyptian Interior Minister Habib el-Adly said all the blasts this week were linked to terror attacks at two other Sinai resorts last year and in 2004.
“The information we have indicates that (the perpetrators) are Sinai Bedouin, and the latest operations are linked to the previous attacks,” el-Adly told state television, referring to the deadly bombings in Sharm el-Sheik last July and Taba in October 2004.
Eager to avoid damage to Sinai’s vital tourist trade by linking al-Qaida to the bombings, Egyptian authorities have blamed Bedouin tribesmen for past attacks. But some outside intelligence officials say groups linked to Osama bin Laden’s terror network are the more likely suspects.
In the first attack Wednesday, a man driving a pickup truck intercepted a peacekeeper SUV, forced it to stop and then jumped out of the truck and flung himself at the vehicle, blowing himself up.
About 35 minutes later, Egyptian police Brig. Gen. Mohammed al-Zamlout was riding in a car when a suicide bomber riding a bicycle struck the vehicle.
“I heard the man yelling ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is great) and then a big explosion hit our car,” al-Zamlout said, his blue uniform splattered with the bomber’s blood.
The largely impoverished peninsula, a barren expanse where Bedouin eke out a meager existence and tourists luxuriate in seaside hotels, has become fertile ground for extremists.
The death and destruction were far greater Monday, when three bombs shattered a holiday weekend, killing 21 people in the Dahab resort 190 miles to the south.
Authorities have rounded up dozens of suspects and are studying the dismembered remains of three men to learn if they were suicide bombers in the Dahab attacks. Three detainees were released after questioning Wednesday.
U.S. terrorism expert Steven Emerson said he thinks the attackers’ goal is destroying Egypt’s tourism industry, which brought in $6.4 billion last year, and thereby undermining President Hosni Mubarak, whose quarter-century in power has been marked by harsh crackdowns on militant groups.
The Sinai is about the size of West Virginia and is home to the mountain where the Bible says Moses received the Ten Commandments. Its long coast, washed by the warm waters of the Red Sea, is being rapidly developed for tourists.