Investigators have identified a suicide bomber in the weekend terror attacks in this Red Sea resort, saying he was an Egyptian with Islamic militant ties, security officials said Tuesday. Police hauled in dozens more people for questioning in the attack.
The bomber carried out the devastating truck bomb attack on the Ghazala Garden's hotel in Sharm el-Sheik. DNA tests identified him as Youssef Badran, an Egyptian Sinai resident with ties to Islamic militants, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the release of the details had not been authorized.
Police held members of Badran's family for questioning and were trying to determine his associates, the officials said. Across Sinai, security forces took in 70 people for questioning on Tuesday, bringing to 140 the number since the early Saturday blasts.
Earlier, an Egyptian diplomat said no Pakistanis were involved in the weekend bombing spree, despite police circulating photographs of five Pakistani men a day earlier.
Police distributed photos of five Pakistani men at checkpoints in and around Sharm el-Sheik on Monday, and several state-owned newspapers published the same pictures provided by the Interior Ministry.
There has been no direct link between the wanted men and Saturday's three pre-dawn bombings, even though at least two security officials said the Pakistanis had flown into Sharm from Cairo several days earlier.
"No Pakistani national was involved in the terrorist attacks that rocked Sharm el-Sheik late last Saturday," the Egyptian Embassy in Islamabad said in a statement.
Egypt's ambassador to Pakistan, Hussein Haridy, said he informed the Pakistani government by telephone late Monday of the Egyptian conclusion.
Posters of the missing Pakistanis were put up in Cairo. Officials now say they are seeking the men for illegally entering Egypt.
Separately, Egyptian security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation, said police detained an unspecified number of people overnight, including women, in the Husseinat and Muqataa villages in the northern Sinai Peninsula near the border with the Gaza Strip.
The officials said they were detained as part of the Sharm investigation, but it was unclear what involvement if any they had to the attacks.
On Saturday, Two blasts rocked the popular Naama Bay tourist strip, including a suicide truck bomb attack that devastated the reception area of the Ghazala Gardens Hotel. Two miles away, a third truck bomb ravaged an area called the Old Market, which is popular with Egyptians.
The death toll stood at 88, according to the head of the Sharm el-Sheik hospital that treated the victims, but Egypt's Health Ministry has put it at 64. Hospitals said the ministry count excludes some sets of body parts.
South Sinai's governor said Monday that 17 of the dead were non-Egyptians, including Westerners and citizens from other Arab states. One American, Kristina Miller, 27, of Las Vegas, was killed.
Meanwhile, 20 of Egypt's top movie and music stars visited Sharm on Tuesday, touring the attack scenes and visiting some of the hospitalized Egyptians.
"I am here to tell my people that we shouldn't let terrorism have its way," director Youssef Chahine said while touring the gutted hotel. "The people are very sad but they are not afraid. It's not the first time but it is the most vicious one."
Investigators are pursuing a possible connection to October's bombings in two Sinai resorts farther north, Taba and Ras Shitan, that killed 34 people, including many Israelis. DNA from the suspected bombers' remains were being compared with samples from the parents of five suspects still at large from the Taba blasts.
The Sharm attacks had hallmarks of other al Qaeda-style operations — near-simultaneous bombings using a mix of techniques, including vehicle-borne and other bombs.
Three groups claimed responsibility for the attacks. One of the groups warned in an Internet statement Monday of a "total war" unless "Jews and Christians leave our country within 60 days." The statement was signed by the Holy Warriors of Egypt.
A conflicting claim was issued Saturday by an al Qaeda-linked group, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, which also claimed responsibility for the October bombings. None of the statements' authenticity could be confirmed.
A third claim was posted Tuesday on the Internet in the name of a previously unknown militant group purporting links to al Qaeda. The statement said the group, called Egyptian Tawhid and Jihad, attacked the "Crusaders" in Sharm on orders from al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his Egyptian-born deputy Ayman al-Zawahri "in support of our brothers in Iraq and Afghanistan."
The claim, which was posted on a militant Islamic Web site where statements by the al Qaeda terror network have previously appeared, could not be independently authenticated. Tawhid and Jihad is Arabic for monotheism and holy war.