CAIRO, Egypt (AP) — A Palestinian refugee plotted the
coordinated bombings targeting Israeli tourists at resorts in the
Sinai and accidentally killed himself while carrying out the
deadliest blast, Egyptian authorities said yesterday.
Discounting the theory of al-Qaida involvement, an Interior
Ministry statement said Ayad Said Saleh was motivated by the
deteriorating situation in the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip, which
his relatives fled in 1967, and carried out the attack with the
help of local residents.
But security officials speaking on condition of anonymity told
The Associated Press they believed the Oct. 7 attacks on the Taba
Hilton and two beach camps packed with Israelis may have been
carried out with help from Islamic groups based outside Egypt,
though not necessarily Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida group.
One car bomb devastated the Hilton hotel in Taba, just yards
from the Israeli border, while two others rocked tourist camps at
Ras Shitan, a coastal village 35 miles further south, killing a
total of 34 people, including Israelis, Egyptians, Italians and
Egypt’s Interior Ministry said the attacks were
masterminded by Saleh, a minibus driver born in the northern Sinai
town of al-Arish, who was in his early 20s. Saleh was killed in the
Taba Hilton bombing along with a fellow plotter, Egyptian Suleiman
Ahmed Saleh Flayfil, 39.
The statement said both men, identified through DNA testing, had
been trying to leave the attack scene but their timed explosives
went off prematurely.
Two other suspects were said to be at large: Mohamed Ahmed Saleh
Flayfil, Suleiman Flayfil’s brother, and Hammad Gaman Gomah
Tarabeen. They were accused of carrying out the campground
Police also arrested five Egyptians accused of playing
lower-level roles, including obtaining explosives and cars used in
the attacks. The statement did not say when they were arrested or
provide details of their capture.
The five are residents of the Sinai Peninsula, a territory
Israel captured from Egypt in the 1967 Middle East war and returned
in 1982 under terms of the first Israeli-Arab peace treaty.
The Interior Ministry said the three cars used in the bombings
were stolen and the explosives were salvaged from war armaments in
the Sinai. The car bombs, according to the statement, were built
using spare parts from washing machines and other equipment.
A senior Egyptian official close to the investigation told the
AP that TNT obtained from a Sinai quarry and RDX explosives from
war armaments were used in the attacks. RDX is a key ingredient in
plastic explosives such as C-4 and Semtex.
Other officials and prosecutors said about 1,100 pounds of TNT
were used in the Taba attack, while leftover munitions from the
Sinai war were planted in two cars used in the Ras Shitan
The Interior Ministry statement said Saleh acted “in
reaction to the deteriorating situation in the occupied territories
to carry out an act targeting Israelis.” It accused Saleh of
turning “to religious fanaticism” after a criminal
past, including raping a young girl.
The size, targets and coordination of the attacks, however,
caused many to speculate foreign terrorists, possibly al-Qaida,
were responsible. Egypt’s Interior Ministry in its Monday
announcement mentioned no broader conspiracy.