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2 attacks in Egypt leave 3 dead, 9 hurt
Updated: 2005-05-01 10:14

Two veiled women shot at a tour bus, and a man ! the brother of one shooter and the fiance of the second ! blew himself up as he leapt off a bridge during a police chase Saturday. All three attackers died and nine people, four of them foreigners, were wounded in an apparent revival of violence against Egypt's vital tourism industry.

The attacks occurred within two hours and at locations just 2 1/2 miles distant.

Those wounded by the explosion in the center of Cairo included an Israeli couple, a Swedish man and an Italian woman, along with three Egyptians. Two Egyptians were wounded in the shooting, which targeted a bus headed toward one of Cairo's most prominent historic Islamic sites.

Egyptian authorities deny major militant groups have returned to violence and said Saturday's attacks were a result of its crackdown on a small militant cell it says carried out an April 7 suicide bombing in a Cairo tourist bazaar that killed two French tourists and an American.

But the attacks deepened fears that militants are launching a new round of violence in Egypt, which saw a bloody campaign by Islamic extremists in the 1990s. After that campaign was suppressed, the country saw a lull in violence until October, when near simultaneous bomb blasts in two Sinai resorts killed 34 people. Then, on April 7, a suicide bomber targeted foreigners near the crowded Khan el-Khalili tourist bazaar in Cairo, killing two French citizens and an American. Eighteen people were wounded.

Tourism is Egypt's biggest foreign currency earner, and the industry had made a strong recovery after the 1990s violence.

The Interior Ministry said Saturday's bombing was a result of the police roundup of those behind the Khan el-Khalili attack. It said police earlier in the day captured two suspects ! Ashraf Saeed Youssef and Gamal Ahmed Abdel Aal ! in connection with that attack and were chasing a third, Ehab Yousri Yassin, on a highway overpass when he jumped off, setting off the nail-filled bomb.

The two women who carried out the shooting attack were identified as Negat Yassin, the bomber's sister, and Iman Ibrahim Khamis, his fiancee, both in their 20s. They carried out the shooting on the tourist bus in revenge for Yassin's death, then shot themselves, the ministry said. Women are not known to have carried out past attacks in Egypt.

Two militant groups posted Web statements claiming responsibility for the twin attacks ! the Mujahedeen of Egypt and the Abdullah Azzam Brigades. Neither claim's authenticity could be verified.

The Abdullah Azzam Brigades said Saturday's violence was in revenge for the arrests of thousands of people in Sinai after the October bombings there. The group claimed responsibility for those attacks as well. Egyptian authorities have said the October attack was connected to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not domestic politics.

Saturday's blast went off in a crowded square between an exclusive hotel on the banks of the Nile and the Egyptian Museum, near a bus station that was relatively empty because of a holiday weekend.

Remains of a body, covered with newspapers, were seen beneath the bridge a few minutes after the 3:15 p.m. explosion was heard through downtown Cairo. Photos in state media showed the body lying in a pool of blood, its head destroyed in the blast.

The injured Swede ! sitting upright in a stretcher with his bloody hands held to his face ! was lifted by paramedics into an ambulance. On a nearby curb, two Westerners checked their wounds; the young woman's left arm was bloodied and the man sitting next to her appeared to have a leg injury. The extent of the other woman's injuries were not immediately clear.

"The explosion was caused by a very primitive bomb full of nails. Most of the injuries were superficial caused by the destruction of the nails," Health Minister Mohammed Awad Tag Eddin said.

Soon after the bomb exploded, the two women ! dressed in head-to-toe black veils ! carried out the shooting attack on a highway leading to the Citadel, a 12th-century fortress with a towering 18th-century mosque, in a part of old Cairo rich with historic sites and cemeteries.

The women were in car following the bus and fired three bullets through its back window before shooting themselves, the Interior Ministry said. One died immediately and the other died later in a hospital, it said.

Witnesses, however, said police opened fire on the women. Two other Egyptians were wounded in the shooting, and none of the tourists on the bus was hurt, police said.

At the site, a pistol and a black glove of the type worn by veiled women lay on the ground that was covered by blood and shattered glass.

Police had launched a wave of arrests after the Khan el-Khalili bombing, which they initially said was carried out by a man acting alone. Later, however, they said he was part of a cell. At least three suspected cell members were arrested, along with more than 30 other people, most of them relatives of wanted suspects.

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