6 Pakistanis sought in Egypt attack probe - East Valley Tribune: Nation / World

6 Pakistanis sought in Egypt attack probe

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Posted: Monday, July 25, 2005 6:17 am | Updated: 8:25 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

SHARM EL-SHEIK, Egypt - Police said Monday they were searching for six Pakistani men in their widening investigation into Egypt's deadliest terror attack that killed scores of people, including an American, at this Red Sea resort.

Police were circulating photographs of the six, who have been missing since several days before Saturday's attacks, at checkpoints in and around this southern Sinai resort city. An Associated Press correspondent who saw the images said the men appeared to be between the ages of 20 and 30.

The involvement of Pakistanis in the attack in Sharm el-Sheik would be unprecedented, as non-Egyptians rarely have been linked to attacks here. It also would be extremely difficult for a group of young Pakistanis not to be noticed in Sharm, one of the heaviest policed cities in Egypt and a favorite place of residence for President Hosni Mubarak.

Pakistani involvement, if proven, also would increase suspicions that Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network may have been involved. The Saudi-born bin Laden is popular among militant Pakistani groups and is known to enjoy support in tribal areas close to the Afghan border.

According to local hospitals, Saturday's pre-dawn bombings killed at least 88 people; Egypt's Health Ministry put the death toll at 64. Hospitals said the ministry count does not include a number of sets of body parts.

At least one American was killed.

Kristina Miller, 27, of Las Vegas, was among the dead, according to KLAS-TV in Las Vegas, quoting her father, Anthony Miller, who said she was vacationing there from England.

He told ABC's "Good Morning America" on Monday that he last spoke to her Friday night, on the eve of her birthday.

"I told her be careful, have a great birthday and I love her and I will call her and talk to her the next day. And that was the last time I talked to her," Miller said.

South Sinai Gov. Mustafa Afifi said Monday that 17 foreigners, including Westerners and citizens from other Arab states, were killed in the attacks, in which the bombers are suspected of hiding their explosives under vegetables in the back of pickup trucks.

Two Italians and a Czech were confirmed killed, according to their governments, and a hospital official in Sharm said two Britons and two Germans were killed. Several Italians and Britons were unaccounted for.

An official at the Pakistan Embassy in Cairo said his embassy was in contact with Egyptian authorities over the issue of the missing Pakistanis.

"But they have not officially informed us that the Pakistanis are suspected of involvement in the bombing. They are only saying: 'We are searching for them. We cannot trace them,'" said Khalid Ahmed, a counselor at the Pakistani mission.

"It is very difficult for us to confirm whether any Pakistani was in Sharm el-Sheik but it is possible that someone may have been there. I have a strong belief that Pakistanis cannot be involved in terrorism here."

Many Pakistanis use Egypt as a route to travel to Europe to find jobs, he said. Last week, police arrested between 40 and 45 Pakistanis in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria for being illegal immigrants.

Police have detained more than 70 people in Sharm and other parts of the Sinai Peninsula during the investigation, which also is following different threads, including possible Palestinian involvement and whether the attacks were linked to October's bombings in two other Sinai resorts.

The investigators, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the inquiry, said they were looking into whether the six men had any involvement in carrying out Saturday's attack.

Police were to conduct DNA testing on the remains of a suicide bomber found in a car that rammed into the Ghazala Gardens Hotel in Naama Bay, the city's main tourist area, early Saturday. Two other blasts rocked a parking lot near the hotel and an area about two miles away called the Old Market.

Afifi said the Ghazala suicide bomber ran down and killed two security guards before crashing into the reception area and detonating his explosives, which investigators have said weighed 660 pounds.

Shortly after, a backpack filled with explosives left by another attacker blew up near the parking lot and taxi stand close to the Ghazala, he said.

The terrorist involved in the third blast in the Old Market had intended to attack a hotel, possibly the Iberotel Palace, Afifi said. But the attacker was stopped in a line of cars at a nearby police checkpoint and got out of his pickup before it exploded. Police are investigating whether the attacker died in the blast.

If independently confirmed, any involvement of Pakistanis would suggest that those behind Saturday's bombings belong to a much wider terror network than previously believed.

Until the latest news broke Monday, suspicions had primarily focused on a Sinai-based network believed responsible for the October bombings in the area that also targeted tourist sites, killing 34 people.

On Sunday, security officials said the bombers appeared to have entered Sharm in two pickup trucks loaded with explosives hidden under vegetables and that police were searching for three suspects believed to have survived the bombings. It was unclear if police were linking those three in any way to the six Pakistanis being sought.

Before the attacks, the militants rubbed serial numbers off the trucks' engines, the officials said. Such serial numbers had been a key clue Egyptian investigators had used to track down those behind the October bombings at two resorts farther north in the Sinai Peninsula, Taba and Ras Shitan.

Investigators also were examining whether the suicide bomber who set off the blast at the Ghazala was one of five suspects still at large from the October attacks.

Police took DNA samples from the parents of the five Taba suspects to compare with bodies found at the Ghazala, a police official said in el-Arish, where the parents were briefly detained.

Egyptian authorities portrayed the Taba bombings as an extension of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rather than a homegrown Islamic militant movement or an al-Qaida-linked operation. They said a Palestinian who died in the attacks had recruited Bedouins and Egyptians to plot the bombings.

But the sophistication of the Sharm bombings - and their timing on the heels of two rounds of attacks in London - raised worries of a wider international connection.

Two rival claims of responsibility have emerged for the Sharm bombings, but neither statement could be authenticated. One was by the Abdullah Azzam Brigades of al-Qaida in Syria and Egypt, which also claimed responsibility for the October bombings. The other was by the previously unknown Holy Warriors of Egypt.

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