At least 88 people were killed and over a hundred others injured when three explosions ripped through a shopping area and hotel packed with tourists in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheik.
Two car bombs were used in the three coordinated attacks. One car bomb, reportedly set off with a timing device, struck the Old Market shopping area. In an apparent suicide bombing, a second car filled with explosives blew up as it was driven into the Ghazala Gardens Hotel reception hall. A third bomb, thought to have been placed in a bag, went off near a taxi stand.
Two Islamic militant groups have claimed responsibility for the attacks, the deadliest in the country's history, although the authenticity of the claims has not been verified.
A group calling itself the Abdullah Azzam Brigades in Syria and Egypt, which claims to be affiliated with Al Qaeda, said it carried out the attack "on the Crusaders, Zionists and the renegade Egyptian regime" in response to the killings of Muslims in Afghanistan, Iran and Chechnya, as well as to strike at Israelis and the Egyptian regime, according to a statement posted on an Islamic Web site on July 23, the day of the attack.
The Brigades previously claimed responsibility for the October 2004 bombings of the tourist resorts of Taba and Ras Shitan in the Sinai peninsula. Those attacks killed 34 people. The group, which also claimed responsibility for an April shooting at a tourist bus in Cairo, is presumably named after Abdullah Yusuf Azzam, a central figure in the development of Al Qaeda. Azzam, a Palestinian who recruited and trained Muslim militants from around the world to fight against the Soviets in the 1980s, is known as Osama Bin Laden's spiritual mentor.
A few hours after the Abdullah Azzam Brigades issued their statement, another group, calling itself Mujahedeen Egypt, also claimed responsibility for the attacks in a statement posted on an Islamic Web Site. "Do not believe what is being said about the claim made by Al Qaeda, may God protect it," the statement read.
The statement, which listed the names of five people who allegedly carried out the attacks, also said that as long as "the Zionists do not get out of the land of the Muslims, they will be digging their own graves with their own hands." According to the statement, the "Zionist Jews" have "not more than 60 days" to get out of Egypt "or else you will see what you have never even seen it in your dreams."
Egypt's tourism industry has been targeted by terrorists in the past, most notably a machine-gun attack on European tourists at Luxor in 1997, which left 62 dead.
Egyptian authorities indicate that they are searching for Pakistani suspects who arrived in Egypt shortly before the attacks. Pictures of the six Pakistanis have reportedly been distributed to police stations in and around Sharm el Sheik.
Some observers suggest that the attacks may have been an attempt to destabilize Egypt before its presidential election, scheduled for September 7.