The Red Sea Bombings – 2006

The three suicide bombs that blew the heart out of Dahab in April 2006 were the third set of triple bombings in 18 months; 34 victims had died at Taba in October 2004, and 88 were killed and more than 200 injured at Sharm-el-Sheik in July 2005. Each time visitors thought it was safe to go back into the warm water of the Red Sea, the Egyptian shore resorts of the Sinai Peninsula became the focus for attack by Egypt ’s home-grown Wahhabi Islamic extremists. They weren’t the only targets. Attacks in Cairo in 2004 and 2009 killed fewer people, but were just as effective at frightening off tens of thousands of free-spending visitors. After 1997, when 58 foreign tourists and their four guides were shot by Islamic terrorists as they walked from their bus to the noble ruins at Luxor, even the wonders of the pyramids seemed somehow diminished.

After Luxor, Egypt’s tourist trade almost collapsed. It recovered slowly while the forces of Islamic extremism concentrated their malign ascendancy elsewhere. Egypt depends on tourism as one of the cornerstones of its economic survival. Unfortunately, its benefits barely reach the impoverished rural communities where Egypt’s version of fundamentalism flourishes – the very communities who don’t forgive Egypt for signing a peace treaty with Israel, and for whom the nation’s secular regime is a daily affront to their ideology. Dahab turned personal tragedies into national disaster. Tourists – Russian, American, British, French and even Egyptian – were by definition infidels who deserved their fate, and so they died. And now Dahab has forced Egypt to abandon its secularly in all but name and seek compromises with the religious zealotry that has sought the state’s destruction.

When: April 24 2006

Where: Dahab, Sinai Peninsula, Egypt

Death toll: 23 dead and 62 wounded, including many Egyptians and people from at least ten other countries. The bombers were believed to come from Bedouin communities of the Sinai with known extremist sympathies and loose connections to al-Qaeda.

You should know: Egypt’s tourist trade suffered badly, though it has proved amazingly resilient despite further attacks. Dahab inspired an unprecedented level of security measures at resorts and tourist sites – in itself a demonstration of the bombings’ worst outcome. It seriously weakened Egypt’s role as a leader among Arab nations, by making it impossible for the country to pursue its relatively quiet, laisser faire accommodations with its neighbors in Palestine, Israel, and the Arab world.

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