SHARM EL-SHEIK, Egypt – The bombers who carried out Egypt’s worst-ever terrorist attack appear to have entered this Red Sea resort in pickup trucks loaded with explosives that were hidden under vegetables, security offi-cials said Sunday.
Police are searching for three suspects believed to have survived the bombings.
One truck headed for the luxury Ghazala Gardens hotel. There, one man planted a bomb in a suitcase in a parking lot while another slammed the vehicle into the hotel’s reception area, the security officials said.
As people fled the Ghazala attack, the suitcase exploded and killed at least seven people, the officials said.
A second truck, on a road leading to another major hotel, got stuck in traffic in the Old Market, an area frequented by Egyptian workers in this resort area on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula. Two militants inside abandoned the truck, apparently setting a timer, and the bomb detonated soon after, the officials said.
Before the attacks, the militants rubbed serial numbers off the truck engines, the officials said. Such serial numbers had been a key clue Egyptian investigators used to track down those behind similar bombings against two resorts farther north on the Sinai Peninsula, Taba and Ras Shitan, last October.
According to local hospitals, Saturday’s pre-dawn bomb blasts killed at least 88 people, both Egyptians and foreigners; however, Egypt’s Health Ministry put the death toll at 64.
One official said he believes the man who planted the suitcase bomb arrived separately – not in the attack truck – and he said police are looking for more than three people.
Investigators also are examining whether the suicide bomber who set off the blast at the Ghazala hotel was one of five suspects still at large after the October bombings.
Police took DNA samples from the parents of the five Taba suspects to compare with bodies found at the Ghazala hotel, a police official said.
With fears that the attacks will devastate one of the strongest engines of Egypt’s vital tourism industry, some 1,000 foreigners and Egyptians who work in Sharm el-Sheik marched down its main strip on Sunday, chanting slogans against terrorism in English, Arabic, Italian and German.
The U.S. Embassy in Cairo confirmed that one American is among the dead in Sharm el-Sheik, and the State Department issued an alert warning Americans to avoid the southern Sinai.
More than 70 people in Sharm el-Sheik and other parts of Sinai have been detained for questioning.
A Polish tourist captured footage of the suitcase blast. From a nearby rooftop, he was filming the smoke rising from the Ghazala hotel. Seconds later, a bright flash goes off at the right corner of the view.
Two claims of responsibility have emerged, but neither has been authenticated. One was made by the Abdullah Azzam Brigades of al Qaeda in Syria and Egypt, which also claimed responsibility for the October bombings. The other was made by the previously unknown Holy Warriors of Egypt.