AMMAN, Jordan – Egyptian authorities announced the arrest Monday of five people allegedly involved in helping plan the coordinated bombings earlier this month at three resorts on the Sinai Peninsula, and said the attacks’ Palestinian leader died accidentally in the explosions that killed at least 33 others.
In a statement issued Monday, Egypt’s Interior Ministry identified Ayad Said Salah, a Palestinian living in the northern Sinai, as the leader of a group of roughly nine men who carried out the Oct. 7 attacks on the Taba Hilton and two camp-style resorts farther south along the Red Sea Riviera. The statement suggested the attacks, which killed at least 12 Israelis, were meant as a response to violence in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.
The statement said a second attacker, an Egyptian identified as Suleiman Ahmed Saleh Flayfil, also died in the explosion that sheered off the facade of the popular hotel. Two other Egyptians – Mohamed Ahmed Saleh Flayfil, Suleiman’s brother, and Hammad Gaman Gomah – remain at large. The statement accused them of carrying out the nearly simultaneous attacks on a pair of tourist camps in Ras Shytan, an enclave of rustic resorts 35 miles south of Taba.
The remaining suspects were also Egyptians, the statement said, including several from nomadic Bedouin tribes that populate the desert peninsula. Those whose arrests were announced Monday were allegedly low-level operatives, responsible for collecting the explosives and the three cars stolen for the attacks.
The Sinai bombings marked the largest attack in Egypt since the 1997 massacre of 58 tourists at Luxor, and prompted early claims by investigators that seasoned Arab militants allied with al Qaeda had a hand in what appeared to be a highly sophisticated strike on vulnerable targets. Egyptian officials have cracked down on domestic militant groups in recent years, but have expressed fear that rising violence in the Palestinian territories and in Iraq are flooding the battlefield with anonymous recruits who are proving difficult to track.
In its statement, the Interior Ministry makes no mention of al Qaeda involvement, and describes an almost primitive operation carried out by first-time militants who relied on local Bedouins for logistical help. It does not mention whether the investigation is continuing or whether Egyptian officials still suspect that the novice local attackers may have received some form of outside help.