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2 Bombers Strike Outside Base in Egypt

Associated Press | April 26, 2006
By WILLA THAYER

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - Two suicide bombers struck Wednesday outside the main base of the multinational peacekeeping force near the Gaza border in Sinai, killing themselves but causing no other casualties in an attack two days after a deadly triple bombing in a beach resort.

The Interior Ministry, meanwhile, lowered the death toll from Monday's bombings in the Sinai beach resort of Dahab to 21, down from earlier reports of 24 killed. It gave no explanation.

Security officials said Wednesday's bombers struck about 35 minutes apart near the main Multinational Forces and Observer base about three miles south of the Rafa border crossing to Gaza in northern Sinai.

A statement from the Multinational Force headquarters in Rome said the two suicide bombers died but there were no other casualties.

The force said the first blast occurred at 11 a.m. and targeted ``an MFO Liaison vehicle'' near the main peacekeeping camp at el-Gorah. It said a peacekeeping personnel - a Norwegian and a New Zealander - were riding in the car with two Egyptian officials, when the bomb exploded, but they were not injured.

The second suicide bomber targeted a police vehicle at 11:35 a.m. ``at another location in the same general area. We understand that no police injuries were reported,'' the statement said.

About the same time and on the Gaza side of the border, five Palestinians were injured when militants fired at them while trying to ram an explosives-laden car into the main Israel-Gaza crossing, Palestinian security officials said.

Three Palestinian officers opened fire on the car as it approached the Palestinian side of the Karni crossing, prompting two unidentified militants in the car to return fire, the security officials said. The three officers and two Palestinian civilians were wounded, the security officials said.

The two militants were arrested and security officials were dismantling a large amount of explosives found in the car, the officials said.

The Israeli border authority said it shut the crossing on order of Israeli defense officials in response to the attempted attack.

Israel has closed the crossing several times this year on warnings of Palestinian militant attacks and a Feb. 21 explosion there. The closings have caused economic hardship in Gaza, which is already devastated by more than five years of fighting with Israel.

The strike on the multinational force in Sinai was the second in less than a year. In August, a crude roadside bomb blasted a vehicle belonging to peacekeepers, slightly wounding two Canadians.

The 1,800 peacekeepers monitor the 1979 Egypt-Israeli peace deal. A total of 10 countries make up the force - the United States, Canada, Australia, Colombia, Fiji, France, Hungary, Italy, New Zealand and Uruguay. Norway also provides the force with three officers, although it is not technically a member.

The peacekeeping force's mandate is to ensure enforcement of the provisions of the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, which led to Israel's withdrawal from the Sinai. In practice, it serves mostly as a buffer between the two countries in case any tensions were to break out again.

Authorities have arrested 30 men in Monday's Dahab bombings, which killed mostly Egyptians.

President Hosni Mubarak called the Dahab attack a ``sinful terrorist action.''

It came just one day after Osama bin Laden had urged Muslims to support al-Qaida in what he called a war against Islam.

The bombings occurred on the eve of Sinai Liberation Day, when Egypt regained full control of the peninsula from Israel in 1986. The tourist population was swollen further by the coincidence of the long Coptic Christian Easter weekend and an ancient Egyptian holiday to mark the start of spring.

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