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2 suicide bombers strike in Sinai

Failed attacks target police and peacekeepers

CAIRO -- Two suicide attackers targeting international peacekeepers and police blew themselves up yesterday, two days after nearly simultaneous bombings killed at least 21 people at a resort in the Sinai Peninsula.

Egyptian Interior Minister Habib el-Adly said all the blasts this week were linked to terror attacks against Sinai resorts last year and in 2004.

''The information we have indicates that [the perpetrators] are Sinai Bedouin, and the latest operations are linked to the previous attacks," Adly told state television, referring to attacks in the Sinai resorts of Sharm el-Sheik last July and Taba in October 2004.

In the first attack yesterday, a man driving a pickup truck intercepted a multinational force SUV, forced it to stop and then jumped out of the truck and flung himself at the vehicle, blowing himself up.

About 35 minutes later, Egyptian police Brigadier General Mohammed al-Zamlout was riding in a car when a suicide bomber riding a bicycle struck the vehicle.

''I heard the man yelling 'Allahu Akbar' [God is great] and then a big explosion hit our car," Zamlout said, his blue uniform splattered with the bomber's blood.

Both attacks happened near the main multinational force base about three miles south of the Rafah border crossing to Gaza. No one else was injured in the attacks.

The strike on the multinational force in Sinai was the second in less than a year. In August, a crude roadside bomb blasted a vehicle belonging to peacekeepers, slightly wounding two Canadians.

Egyptian authorities -- eager not to further damage the Sinai's vital tourist trade by linking Al Qaeda to the bombings -- have blamed Bedouin tribesmen for past attacks. But some outside intelligence officials have said groups linked to Osama bin Laden's terror organization were the more likely suspects.

The largely impoverished peninsula, a barren expanse where Bedouin eke out a meager existence and tourists luxuriate in seaside hotels, has become fertile ground for terrorists, who have hit the Multinational Force and Observer peacekeepers twice in less than a year -- both times after larger and bloodier attacks on Sinai resorts.

On Monday three bombs shattered a peaceful holiday weekend, killing 21 people in the Dahab resort 190 miles to the south of the sites of yesterday's attacks.

Authorities have rounded up dozens of suspects and are studying the dismembered remains of three men to learn if they were suicide bombers in the Dahab attacks. Three detainees were released after questioning yesterday.

Egypt's intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, flew to Yemen yesterday for talks on the Dahab bombings, according to intelligence officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information. They said Egypt wants to know if Al Qaeda activists who escaped from a prison in Yemen might be connected to Sinai terror cells.

The interior minister said he believed yesterday's attacks were carried out by the same group responsible for the Dahab bombings and that both strikes were linked to those of 2005 and 2004.

Terrorism specialist Steven Emerson, in a telephone interview from Washington, offered a different scenario. ''It's clear these people are from some Al Qaeda derivative group," he said. ''The Egyptians have a real problem in the Sinai where these jihadists are able to move in with impunity and collaborate with the local Bedouin. The bombers couldn't operate in the Sinai without the support of the Bedouin."

Emerson said he believes the attackers' goal was destroying Egypt's tourism industry, which brought in $6.4 billion last year, and overthrowing President Hosni Mubarak, whose quarter-century in power has been marked by harsh crackdowns on militants

The Sinai is about the size of West Virginia, and is home to the mountain where the Bible says Moses received the Ten Commandments. Its long coastline, washed by the warm waters of the Red Sea, is being rapidly developed for tourists.

But Sinai residents, mainly nomadic Bedouin, complain they are poorly served by the government.

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