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Egyptians Protest Deadly Attacks in Resort Town


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

From Britain to Egypt and beyond, investigators are looking for the planners of several recent bombings. They're also tracing any connections between them. The most deadly attack came over the weekend in the resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Hospital officials say 88 people were killed. In a moment we'll hear about the two groups that have claimed responsibility for the Egyptian bombings. We'll start our coverage with NPR's Jackie Northam in Sharm el-Sheikh.


The three bombs that exploded here on Friday night struck at the very heart of Sharm el-Sheikh's main industry: tourism. One of the devices went off in the center of the Naama district, which is full of cafes and restaurants and a popular haunt for tourists. A suicide car bomber struck at the Old City where the charming markets were a great night destination. Another suicide bomber drove his car up to the front entrance of the Ghazala Gardens Hotel, one of the many luxurious resorts overlooking the Red Sea. Throughout the city, flags at all the hotels were lowered at half-staff. Yesterday, thousands of Egyptian employees and management at the hotels gathered to send a signal to those who carried out the attacks.

(Soundbite of demonstration; shouting in foreign language)

NORTHAM: Like others, this group from one hotel was shouting, `No, no, to terrorism.' Many of the demonstrators held banners that said `Peace' or `Life will go on.' Many more Egyptians lined the sidewalks clapping and showing their support. At one point, everyone seemed to congregate in front of the Ghazala Gardens Hotel, the noise hitting a crescendo.

(Soundbite of demonstration; shouting in foreign language)

NORTHAM: The Ghazala Gardens is now hidden behind sheets of heavy, white tarpaulin, but one can peek through openings to catch a glimpse of the devastation. The front of the once high-end resort hotel is gone. So too is the lobby. They're among the rubble inside the hotel and outside. Bouquets of fresh-cut flowers line the sidewalk. Eshef Luksler(ph) with the Sun & Fun Tours(ph) says the terrorists have no bounds.

Mr. ESHEF LUKSLER (Sun & Fun Tours): It's a message that they can reach everywhere. They didn't come up to Sharm because it's Sharm. It's coming to say that we are coming everywhere. We have been in London, we have been in Madrid, we have been in Beirut, now it's Sharm. God knows where else. But we are going to fight to tell these people we are not cowards. We are standing on our feet, and we're going to come back strongly and much smarter than before.

NORTHAM: There's cause to worry for the hundreds of thousands of Egyptians working in the hotels and casinos in this resort town. Fifteen years ago, Sharm el-Sheikh was not much more than a desolate patch of sand on the tip of the Sinai Peninsula. Now it's a glittering array of five-star resorts, restaurants and casinos. But Sharm el-Sheikh also represents opportunity for many Egyptians who cannot get work in Cairo or elsewhere. Mohammed Fouad(ph) has a law degree but could not get ahead in Cairo. He came here to Sharm el-Sheikh six months ago to work in one of the resorts as a driver. Fouad says Sharm el-Sheikh offered him a good chance to finally get ahead.

Mr. MOHAMMED FOUAD: Because in the resort, there are many new projects here, like hotel or resorts. So the owner here pay much money for a person to come to work here. He paid more than Egyptian government. They gave much money.

NORTHAM: Fouad paints a worrying scenario for the future of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Mr. FOUAD: The terrorists destroy the city and we cannot find good job 'cause the tourists leave the city. Then the owner here, they cannot pay like before. We are so sad.

NORTHAM: There's no question the bombings have had an immediate impact on the tourism trade. In the Old City, about seven miles from the resort hotels and where one of the car bombs exploded, crowds normally throng the markets buying up gold, earthenware and fabrics. This weekend, many shop owners sat outside their damaged buildings, the remains of their goods broken and burned in huge piles outside their shops. The main activity is cleanup.

(Soundbite of cleanup activity)

NORTHAM: The blast sent glass and debris flying. More than 15 people died at this one site. The explosion happened directly outside the covered market. Staircases are gone and huge chunks of the building lie on the road. There is no merchandise left. The terrorist attacks represent something more than just the physical and financial loss. There's a sense of spiritual loss right now in Sharm el-Sheikh--for the peaceful oasis Sharm el-Sheikh once was for foreigners and for the hope it brought to many Egyptians.

Jackie Northam, NPR News, Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jackie Northam is NPR's International Affairs Correspondent. She is a veteran journalist who has spent three decades reporting on conflict, geopolitics, and life across the globe - from the mountains of Afghanistan and the desert sands of Saudi Arabia, to the gritty prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and the pristine beauty of the Arctic.