Four reported dead in Cairo explosion07/04/2005 - 19:39:31
A reported four people were killed and 19 injured when an explosion apparently set off by a man on a motorcycle hit a popular tourist bazaar in Cairo’s Old City today.
Two of the dead were a French woman and an American, said Egypt’s deputy health minister Ahmed Adel. The nationalities of the two other dead are not yet known.
Injured were 10 Egyptians, two Americans, two Turks, two Italians, two French people and a British person.
Police earlier reported that three people may have been killed, with body parts strewn around the area, near Cairo’s famed al-Azhar mosque.
At least two witnesses at the scene said the explosion seemed to have been set off by a man on a motorcycle, perhaps carrying a bomb. Police were investigating the reports.
The dead French woman was a tourist, said French Embassy spokeswoman Bernadette Abou Bechara.
An official at the US Embassy in Cairo said he could not confirm that the casualties included Americans.
If confirmed as a bombing, it would be the first attack targeting tourists in the Egyptian capital in more than seven years. Egypt put down a campaign of violence in the 1990s by Islamic militants who frequently targeted foreigners in their bid to bring down the government.
The blast went off in the al-Moski bazaar, a maze of narrow alleys with tourist shops and clothes sellers – often crammed with foreigners and Egyptian shoppers, carts and peddlers – near the main tourist souq of Khan al-Khalili. Two witnesses reported that a man on a motorcycle set off a bomb.
Rabab Rifaat, an Egyptian woman who was shopping in a store several yards from the blast, said she heard ”a boom, a horrible sound, very loud. Everyone started running.”
Rifaat and another witness said the blast was set off by a man who was either carrying a bomb or had it on his motorcycle.
A large, organised tour group was in the street, buying items at a market when the explosion went off, Rifaat said. Six or seven bodies lay on the ground afterward, some of them foreign-looking, and an Egyptian man ran with burns on his back and his clothes torn. It was unclear if the bodies were dead or wounded.
Police were trying to determine if the blast came from an accident or from a person on a motorcycle, police officials said.
Hundreds of police sealed off the area, and two ambulances were at the scene. Tourists remained in Khan al-Khalili, several hundred yards away outside the police cordon.
The Khan is the most famous of a number of closely packed bazaars near al-Azhar, one of the most prestigious Islamic institutions in the Sunni Muslim world, in Cairo’s old city.
Egypt has largely seen calm since it suppressed Islamic militants groups in the 1990s with a heavy-handed crackdown.
The last major militant attacks came in late 1997. In September that year, two gunmen fired automatic rifles at a tour bus parked outside the Egyptian Museum in central Cairo, killing 10 people – mostly German tourists. A month later, militants killed 58 foreign tourists and four Egyptians in an attack at a pharaonic temple in Luxor, southern Egypt.
Last October, explosions hit several hotels in the Sinai Peninsula, including one in the resort of Taba, killing 34 people, and Egyptian authorities have linked the blast to Israeli-Palestinian violence.
Police later said they were investigating a motorcycle found near the scene with nails scattered on the ground around it, but they would not confirm if the blast was from a bomb.
Three officials from the US Embassy arrived at the scene about three hours after the explosion and appeared to be trying to make their way through the police cordon.
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