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Egyptian resort town blasts kill dozens

More than 100 injured as investigation intensifies





(CNN) -- Deadly explosions that rocked the Egyptian city of Sharm el-Sheikh on Saturday may be linked to a series of bomb blasts last October in the Red Sea resort of Taba, Egypt's interior minister said.

"We are trying to find out who committed these crimes," Habib al-Adli told reporters while viewing the extensive damage at the Ghazala Garden Hotel in Naama Bay, a popular tourism area of the city on the Sinai Peninsula. "It is likely that they have some relationship to the Taba operation."

At least 59 people were killed and 111 wounded when at least three explosions early Saturday rocked Sharm el-Sheikh.

In Egypt's northeastern Sinai in October, attackers struck the Taba Hilton and nearby camping areas around Ras al Sultan and Tarabeen in a series of bomb blasts, killing 34 people. It was Egypt's last major bombing. (Full story)

Al-Adli said it was not yet known who was behind the Saturday attacks, "but whoever it is, or whatever groups they belong to, this is ugly terrorism, and there's no humanity or values or feel of belonging in these acts."

Asked whether he thought the blasts might be related to Islam, he replied, "What Islam? This terrorism has nothing to do with any religion, because all religions do not allow aggression and do not allow killing civilians in innocence. Those don't belong to Muslims. They are a gang of criminals."

At least one of Saturday's explosions, at the city's Old Market, was caused by a car bomb, the ministry said. Al-Adli said a second explosion, in a Naama Bay parking lot and shuttle stop, resulted from an explosive device that had been left there.

The blast at the Ghazala Garden Hotel occurred after a car sped past checkpoints and barricades and went into a hotel reception area, al-Adli said. The explosion killed the policemen who were trying to stop the car, he said.

Egypt's tourism minister, Ahmed el-Maghrabi, said the facade of the hotel was destroyed, and a taxi driver said the blast severely damaged at least one other hotel, all packed with tourists. Dozens of visitors and other taxi drivers were waiting at a shuttle bus stop when the bomb went off, he said.

The explosions at the tip of the Sinai on the Red Sea happened about 1:15 a.m. (2215 p.m. Friday GMT.)

Twenty-eight of those injured were non-Egyptians, said Hala el-Khatib, spokeswoman for the Egyptian Tourism Ministry. They included 13 Italians; five British; three Spanish; three Saudis; one Turk; one Ukrainian; a Russian; and an Arab-Israeli, she said.

About five non-Egyptians were among the dead, she said, but their nationalities were not available.

Earlier, the British Foreign Office said the British ambassador to Egypt, Derek Plumbly, and others were on the way to the scene.

An employee at the Ghazala Hotel said she heard a huge explosion and felt the building tremble. Guests were being transferred to other hotels, and police cordoned off the area, she said.

Video from Nile TV showed men at one site carrying body bags to emergency vehicles, and other bodies lying amid debris on bloody ground, covered by sheets or blankets.

"We are trying to comfort those touched by those explosions," el-Maghrabi said. "These groups, those criminal groups, will never be able to steal the right of people to move and travel. This is very unfortunate."

U.N., Palestinian condemnation

The Palestinian Authority issued a statement Saturday condemning the blasts in Sharm el-Sheikh.

A spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan released a statement early Saturday expressing "sorrow and anger" at the "multiple car bombs in the Sinai Peninsula."

"Once again, in this tragic month, he condemns the use of terror and indiscriminate violence against civilians, which no cause or belief can possibly justify," the statement said.

One husband and wife were rudely awakened by the blasts.

"My wife and I were asleep and, basically, I just woke up because our house is made out of glass doors, and simply the glass started shaking really hard," said Ahmed Mansour, who lives in Sharm el-Sheikh, 7 kilometers (4 miles) from Naama Bay.

"I personally just thought it was an earthquake. So then my wife woke up and I just told her, its probably just an earthquake, so just go back to sleep. Fifteen minutes later, I started to get phone calls from, basically, people asking us if we were all right," Mansour said.

"And then I switched the TV on and basically heard what happened."

Mansour said he and his neighbors were shaken, and they came to his house because they didn't want to be alone. Mansour's wife works at a dive shop, and he said the busiest part of the tourist season is beginning.

"I don't think there's going to be high season here this year," he said.

A physician at the Sharm el-Sheikh hospital, Dr. Adel Taher, said he had treated at least 50 people wounded in the blasts, most with blast injuries and lacerations. He said every available doctor in the area had come to the hospital to assist blast victims, who streamed into the hospital for more than two hours.

Two patients from his hospital were transported by helicopter to Cairo for treatment, he said.

City resident Lucia Gregoiia said she was at a bar with friends near the Ghazala Hotel when they heard an explosion. They went to the door and were showered with dust and smoke. She ran toward the beach, away from the crowds, seeking safety, she said.

After the October blasts in Taba, the Interior Ministry said the attacks were meant as "a response to the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories and it was directed at Israelis staying in the hotel and two camps."

Egypt had been operating under heightened security in recent days, Interior Minister al-Adli said, because of the bomb attacks in London. Asked if he thought the London blasts were related to the explosions in Sharm el-Sheikh, al-Adli said, "Look, it's all terrorism. It's a crime of terrorism, whether here, or in London, or Turkey, or some time ago in Saudi Arabia, or in other areas."

No other explosive devices had been found as of Saturday, al-Adli said.

CNN's Alphonso Van Marsh and Arwa Damon contributed to this report.

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