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Last Updated: Friday, 8 October, 2004, 16:16 GMT 17:16 UK
Who was behind Egypt attacks?

By Roger Hardy
BBC Middle East analyst

Speculation as to who carried out the attacks on three Egyptian Red Sea resorts appears to be settling on al-Qaeda or a group linked to the organisation.

Injured Israeli taken to hospital in southern Israel
Israelis injured in the attacks were evacuated to southern Israel
The character of these synchronised attacks - and the ruthless disregard of who the casualties might be - suggest a group of the al-Qaeda type.

Egypt's home-grown radical groups - Jihad and Gamaa Islamiya - were crushed in the 1990s, and they are unlikely to have the capacity to carry out such attacks.

If it was a group linked in some way to Osama Bin Laden's global network, then Taba may well have seemed a tempting target.

In the eyes of radical Islamists, it is not so much Egyptian territory as an extension of Israel.

Attacking it would be a means of showing solidarity with the Palestinians, straining Israeli-Egyptian relations - and weakening an Arab government to which they are implacably hostile.

Hamas discounted

It might have seemed natural to link these attacks to the recent upsurge of violence in the Gaza Strip - and point the finger of blame at the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

It is true a Hamas official in Syria recently threatened to extend its war against Israel beyond the occupied territories, but this was later denied by other Hamas leaders.

There has also been an explicit denial of involvement in the Egypt attacks by a Hamas spokesman in Gaza.

Israeli and other analysts also doubt whether Hamas would want to upset its close relations with the Egyptian authorities - or run the risk of taking Egyptian lives as well as Israeli ones.

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