CAIRO, Egypt (AP) – Bloodstains remained among the jewelry and souvenir shops in one of Cairo’s main tourist bazaars Friday, a day after a bomb blast killed three people, including an American, and raised worries about a revival of Islamic militant attacks on foreigners that devastated Egypt’s economy in the 1990s.

Despite the blast, scores of tourists wandered freely in the area’s maze of small alleys, shopping, sipping black tea or Turkish coffee or smoking a waterpipe in cafes Friday. Egyptian authorities, seeking to dispel concerns of a new campaign of violence, said the bomber who attacked the Khan al-Khalili bazaar was working alone.

The blast injured 18 people, including Egyptians, Americans and French. An American man in his 20s and a French woman were killed. Investigators were running DNA tests on the severely mutilated third body, which authorities say likely is that of the bomber.

A previously unknown group, the al-Ezz Islamic Brigades, claimed responsibility for the attack in an Internet statement, saying it was a message to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that Islamic militancy still exists in the country.

The authenticity of the claim could not be independently verified.

Egyptian officials sought to limit possible damage to Egypt’s vital tourism industry, stressing there was no evidence so far the bomber was part of a wider group.

“Initial evidence is that it was an individual act. The way in which the explosive was prepared was very primitive,” Prime Minister Ahmed Nazief told reporters after visiting victims at hospital.

Tourism Minister Ahmed El Maghraby said it was unlikely the blast was a prelude to a concerted terror campaign, adding: “So far, we have had no requests from tourists to leave early from Egypt.”

Sheik Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, the head of Al-Azhar, one of the oldest and most prominent Muslim scholarly institutions, said the bombing could “only be carried out by someone who lost his mind.”

Tourism is Egypt’s largest earner of foreign currency. The country has rebuilt the industry after it was devastated in the 1990s by attacks on foreigners carried out by Islamic militants seeking to overthrow Mubarak’s regime.

The last major burst of violence in that militant campaign was in 1997, when gunmen attacked a bus of German tourists in Cairo, killing 11, and then massacred tourists at a pharaonic temple in the southern city of Luxor in a shooting that left 64 dead.

Last October, explosions hit several hotels in the Sinai Peninsula, including one in the resort of Taba, killing 34 people. Egyptian authorities say that attack was linked to Israeli-Palestinian violence.

There have been other, far smaller individual incidents. Last month, an Egyptian man said to be unemployed and depressed stabbed a Hungarian couple, slightly wounding them, after they kissed while pausing for a photograph at a revered mosque not far from the site of Thursday’s blast.

Security was heavy around the bazaar Friday, with policemen searching bags and erecting barricades on roads leading to the area in the heart of medieval Cairo. Security in the capital, home to at least 15 million people, has been significantly stepped up, especially around Western embassies and neighborhoods with large foreign communities.

Police sealed off a stretch of road where the blast took place as investigators interviewed shop owners and forensic experts collected scattered nails apparently from the bomb.

Amin al-Laban, a 51-year-old spice store owner on the street, said his 22-year-old son, Mohammed, was injured in the massive explosion.

“The blast was so big that I thought that the building above my shop collapsed, when I came out to check on Mohammed, I could not see anything from the black dust,” the elder al-Laban said. “Business will die. May God have mercy on us.”



Associated Press reporters Paul Garwood and Maggie Michael contributed to this report.

AP-ES-04-08-05 1640EDT


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