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Groups condemn terror attack in Egypt
Updated: 2005-04-11 09:29

Opposition groups condemned last week's terrorist attack at a Cairo tourist market, but warned the government against using it as a pretext to clamp down on political reform. A Frenchman wounded in the bombing died just after being flown back to France for treatment, bringing the death toll to four, French diplomats said Sunday.

The others killed were an American, a Frenchwoman and the bomber. Another 18 people were injured in the attack, the first in Cairo since 1997.

Hundreds of Egyptian students demonstrate outside Cairo University on Sunday, April 10, 2005. The students, who support Palestinian resistance, also condemned Thursday's terrorist attack in Cairo, and called for end to the emergency laws. [AP]

Egyptian investigators said they have identified the bomber and three accomplices. An investigator said on condition of anonymity that the bomber was identified through his fingerprints and DNA. He said the man, in his early 20s, was from an impoverished Cairo suburb.

The suspected accomplices are in custody and being questioned, the investigator said, and early reports indicate none have any affiliation with existing militant groups.

The banned group al-Gamaa al-Islamiya, or Islamic Group, one of the two major militant groups that carried out most of the violent attacks that hit Egypt in the 1990s, issued a weekend statement condemning the attack.

"Such random attacks don't establish religions, and don't reform states," the group said, but only "deteriorate the situation even more." The group renounced violence in 1997 after waging a violent campaign to topple Egypt's regime.

The bomb packed with nails exploded in a bazaar area popular with tourists near the famed al-Azhar mosque in old Cairo.

Egypt's largest Islamic opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, also condemned "the cowardly act." The group, banned since 1954, has said it renounced violence in the 1970s.

Kifaya, or Enough, a recently created movement that has demonstrated since December against a possible additional term for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, also denounced the bombing.

But the group warned "against using these kinds of criminal incidents in desperate attempts to prolong despotism and oppression, or using them as a pretext to justify the continuation of emergency laws."

The Muslim Brotherhood expressed similar concerns.

Cabinet spokesman Magdy Rady on Saturday dismissed worries the attack could derail political reforms.

"The process will not be affected by a security issue" and neither will it threaten the country's stability, he said.

Mubarak announced in late February that he would allow more than one candidate to run for president this fall, stirring the country's previously stagnant political life, but many fear the reforms are too small and could be reversed.

Opposition and human rights groups also have been pushing the government to lift emergency laws in place since 1981 that allow the government wide latitude to detain people.

After tolerating protests by Kifaya and other groups for a short time, the government banned a Muslim Brotherhood protest on March 27 and Kifaya's latest protest on March 30, and arrested members of both groups who went ahead anyway.

Some pro-government media say those demonstrations have caused chaos in Egyptian politics, paving the way for the explosion.

"We can't absolve the unhealthy atmosphere, which was born out of the incitement which we are witnessing in the political arena, from both direct or indirect responsibility for what happened," wrote Galal Dewidar, editor of the semiofficial Al-Akhbar daily, on Sunday.

The opposition argues that emergency laws haven't prevented the latest attack, and blamed Mubarak for the violence. "President Mubarak is politically responsible for the return of terrorism," read the Sunday headline of the leftist opposition Weekly Al-Arabi.

But some say that the blast should be viewed as part of the trend of suicide attacks taking place in several Arab countries since the American invasion of Iraq two years ago.

"There is a lethal combination of frustration and anger in the region," and it's too early to say if the attack marks a new wave of violence in Egypt, said Dia'a Rashwan, a Cairo-based expert on Islamic militancy.

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