London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Egyptian Security officials and a number of fundamentalists have stated that the recent bombings in the Dahab resort of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on 24 April 2006 were linked to the attacks in Taba 2004, and Sharm Al-Sheikh 2005 carried out by an Islamic group called Al Tawhid wa Jihad (Monotheism and Jihad).
Major General Fouad Allam, former director of Egypt’s State Security Investigation Department, told Asharq Al-Awsat that there are similarities between the methods used in all three operations, as simultaneous or successive bombings occurred targeting civilians and attempting to undermine tourism. Allam believes that there are perhaps terrorist cells in Sinai that are not known to each other or that a new organization has started operating. He pointed out that the suspects who were detained by the security services and who belong to the so-called Tawhid wa Jihad group are perhaps not directly connected to the Dahab bombers.
Allam added that it was Al-Qaeda that introduced the method of simultaneous bombings, which was first used in the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Nairobi, and Dar al-Salam.
Major General Allam stated that limited resources were used in the Dahab bombings, with most of the casualties caused by fragments of glass from the damaged shops and restaurants. The attacks caused 62 injuries in Dahab, a popular diving resort.
Egyptian police have detained two men they said drove people suspected of involvement in bomb attacks in the resort of Dahab and north Sinai, the state MENA news agency reported. In a report published late on Friday, MENA quoted security forces as saying they were questioning two drivers whose passengers could have been involved in the blasts.
Considering that the Dahab bombings followed closely the Taba and Sharm al-Sheikh bombings, Allam said that he believes this has been caused by negligence and complacence on the part of the security forces, which allowed the culprits to infiltrate the resort. He pointed out that this requires a revision of the country’s security plans. He recalled that another unknown group carried out two other attacks on the Red Sea coast during the past two years.
Security experts, meanwhile, have played down the likelihood that the groups responsible for the recent attacks are linked to extremist foreign organizations such as Al-Qaeda. They point out, however, that these foreign organizations might be a source of inspiration for local Egyptian groups.
Islamists in London said that those who carried out the simultaneous attacks probably embrace Al-Qaeda’s ideology and methods.
Abdullah Uns, son-in-law of Abdullah Azzam, the spiritual leader of the Arab Afghans, argued that a state of resentment exists because of the events in Iraq and Palestine. He added that although the new groups accept Al-Qaeda’s ideology, they use different names.
Other fundamentalists also living in London expressed their beliefs that the Dahab attackers are no strangers to the Sinai Peninsula and are probably native to the area where the attacks occurred. Shortly after the Dahab blasts, police said they had formally detained at least 10 people and taken in about 70 local Bedouin for questioning. Egypt has since said the Dahab and north Sinai attacks could be linked.
Egyptian Islamist Dr Hani Al-Sibai, director of the London-based Al-Maqrizi Research Center, said that Osama Bin Laden’s most recent recorded message had no connection with the attacks in the Dahab resort, as this message may have reached Al-Jazeera, the Arabic news channel that received the video, a long time ago. In addition, he said, a terrorist attack requires much preparation and research in the location’s weak points and the most suitable time to carry out the operation. He noted that there is a strong similarity between the Sharm Al-Sheikh bombing for which Tawhid wa Jihad claimed responsibility, and the Dahab attack.
He added that Al-Qaeda might be a source of inspiration for the local terrorist organizations. He did not rule out the possibility that Bedouin from the Sinai Peninsula could have been involved in the attack as an act of revenge for the earlier imprisonment of hundreds of Bedouin in the wake of the Taba and Sharm Al-Sheikh bombings.
In agreement with General Allam, Al-Sibai said that Al-Qaeda invented the method of simultaneous bombings when it attacked the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar al-Salam in August 1998.
The Dahab resort has been the third target to be attacked in the Sinai Peninsula after Sharm Al-Sheikh in July 2005, and Taba in October 2004.
Egyptian courts announced earlier that the Islamist group Tawhid wa Jihad was responsible for the Taba attack, which killed 34 people in October 2004, and the Sharm Al-Sheikh operation, which killed 70 people in 2005.
Three leading members of the group that carried out the earlier bombings, namely, Nasser Khamis Al-Milahi, Id Salamah Al-Tarawi, and Muhammad Abdallah Jarjar operated within the organization. During interrogation, they confessed that they targeted tourist areas in southern Sinai.
In the statement issued after the Sharm Al-Sheikh bombing in July 2005, the group said: “We, Tawhid wa Jihad in Egypt, are continuing our war to expel the Jews and Christians from the land of Islam. Our war has begun by targeting the axis of Zionist evil and immorality in Sinai, where Moses spoke to God, in Taba, Ras Shaytan, and Nuweiba. May God accept our martyrs who fell in this blessed raid.”
Al-Zayyat, an Egyptian lawyer who usually represents Islamists said, “We appear to be seeing the birth of a new generation of Jihadist Salafism in Egypt. However, it is not true that Gamaat Salafiya Jihadiya is behind this operation.”
He explained that this generation adopts Al-Qaeda’s ideology, which is spreading fast. He pointed out that the recent bombings are linked to what is happening in Palestine and the attempt to pressure Hamas and to remove the movement from power.