TABA, Egypt (AP) – Dozens of Bedouin tribesmen have been detained on suspicion they supplied explosives for car bomb attacks at two Egyptian resorts that killed at least 34 people, officials said Saturday.

Israel’s counterterrorism chief, meanwhile, said Israeli tourists in Egypt are still in danger and urged them to return home immediately.

Three car bombs exploded Thursday night, one at the Taba Hilton just south of the Egypt-Israel border and two in a town of beach huts, Ras Shitan,35 miles to the south on the Red Sea coast.

Some Israeli officials believe the al-Qaida terror network was most likely behind the attack, while Egypt says it is too early to point to suspects.

At the Taba Hilton, fingerprints were lifted from the apparent car bomb, which had been packed with 440 pounds of explosives, and DNA samples were taken from nearby body parts to determine whether suicide bombers drove the vehicle, Egyptian security officials said on condition of anonymity.

Investigators also were doing “dust analysis” around the explosion sites to determine exactly what sort of explosives were used, an Egyptian investigator said on condition of anonymity. Samples were being sent to Cairo for the analysis.

The security officials said several dozen Bedouin tribesmen have been detained for questioning about suspicions they provided the explosives to the attackers.

A senior police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said 20 people were being held, some of them quarry workers who presumably had access to explosives. Those 20, some or all of them Bedouins, appeared to be among the dozens to whom security officials had referred.

Egyptian officials said Saturday that 34 people were killed. In Taba, seven Egyptians, three Israelis and 20 bodies still unidentified had been recovered, they said, and two Egyptians and two Israelis were killed in Ras Shitan.

Israeli officials put the death toll at 33.

In Taba, three bodies, including that of a toddler, were pulled from the twisted wreckage of the hotel Saturday, the Israeli military said. Col. Gideon Bar-on, a member of the Israeli army rescue unit, told Israeli Radio that 13 more bodies were believed to be under the rubble.

The head of Israel’s Shin Bet security service, Avi Dichter, toured the scene of the hotel explosion Saturday and met with Egyptian security officials.

At Ras Shitan, several Bedouin tribesmen, including the owner of the camp, were questioned by Egyptian security officials. American diplomats also visited the camp Saturday, to check on possible American casualties, and quickly left.

In Taba, where the blast brought down a 10-story wing of the resort, Egyptian and Israeli rescuers used jackhammers, drills, dogs and bare hands to search the wreckage. Blood stained floors, walls and even ceilings, and trees around the hotel were filled with the bodies of charred birds.

Dan Arditi, head of Israel’s counterterrorism agency, said Saturday that Israeli tourists in the Sinai Peninsula are still in danger, and urged them to come home immediately.

Arditi’s agency last month urged Israelis not to travel to the Sinai, saying it had concrete warnings about a possible terror attack.

Israel’s government had never before issued such a severe travel advisory, but thousands of Israelis ignored it and spent the Jewish holiday period, which began in mid-September, in Sinai resorts. Many Israelis considered the desert peninsula a safe place to get away from their country, which has been hit by scores of Palestinian suicide bombings in the past four years of fighting.

After Thursday’s attacks, thousands of frightened Israeli tourists returned home, but others remained.

“I recommend that Israeli citizens who are still in the Sinai come back, as quickly as possible,” Arditi said, suggesting that it is possible the attackers his agency had warned about a month ago were not those who carried out Thursday’s bombings.

Israeli security sources said the warnings a month ago apparently referred to Palestinian militants trying to sneak out of Gaza, which borders on the Sinai. The peninsula is the main weapons smuggling route for Palestinian militants.

A U.S. counterterrorism official in Washington said American officials suspect – but aren’t certain – al-Qaida played a role because of the attack’s level of sophistication. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Palestinian or Egyptian militant groups should not be ruled out.

President Bush offered to help Egypt track down those responsible.

“By targeting Muslims and Jews, Egyptians and Israelis, and women and children, the terrorists have shown their total contempt for all human life and for all human values,” he said.

There were several claims of responsibility – including one from an al-Qaida-linked group – but none appeared credible.



Associated Press reporter Sarah El Deeb in Ras Shitan contributed to this report.

AP-ES-10-09-04 1053EDT



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