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Egypt Blasts Pose Tough Question for Tourists

As the world condemned the bomb attacks in Egypt which killed at least 88 people, foreign tourists began returning home. The incident has left some in Europe asking where in the world it is safe to go on holiday.

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The first foreign holidaymakers have begun to leave Egypt

The bombs that ripped through shopping and hotel areas in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt's worst attack since 1981 have killed at least 88 people among them foreign tourists vacationing there.

Two Britons, two Italians, one Ukrainian, one Russian, one Dutch citizen and one Israeli of Arab descent died in the blasts, Egyptian sources told AFP. The Czech Republic later reported one of its nationals had died.

Anschlagserie in Scharm el Scheich - Ghazala Gardens Hotel

The Ghazala Gardens Hotel was reduced to rubble

The Egyptian resort which as well as being a top tourist resort is also regularly used for high-level summits and international conferences.

Shaken tourists spoke of mass panic and hysteria as people fled the carnage in the early hours of Saturday, with bodies strewn across the roads, people screaming and sirens wailing.

"Barbaric threat" and "senseless acts"

The attacks have sparked angry condemnation from around the world.

In Europe, from where tens of thousands tourists travel to Egypt, the attacks only added to a sense of crisis triggered by the July 7 London bombings and follow-up attacks this week.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said he could not rule out links to the London attacks. "Almost certainly they are evil people who will claim wrongly to have done this in the name of Islam," he said.

Spezialbild: Anschlagserie in Scharm el Scheich - Marktplatz

A policeman stands guard in front of wreckages of cars in the Old Market in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh

In Paris, French President Chirac stressed the world's "absolute determination to fight this scourge," while German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer denounced the "blind and fanatical hatred" of the terrorists.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called on countries which have suffered such attacks to stand united against terrorism, saying that could be the only response to "this barbaric threat."

In Rome Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi called the attacks "tragic," Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said they were "barbaric," while EU commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso described them as "cowardly." Pope Benedict XVI said he was deeply saddened by these "senseless acts."

European capitals divided over response

Though many foreigners have begun to leave Egypt, some European governments said they weren't explicitly warning their nationals against traveling to Egypt.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Britons were not being warned against traveling to Egypt despite the bomb attacks. "We are asking other countries not to say 'Don't travel to the United Kingdom', despite the fact that we have suffered these two very serious terrorist attacks in the last three weeks," he said. "We're saying to people, 'Yes, we all know there is a threat of terrorism in Egypt, but there's a threat of terrorism across Europe and in the United Kingdom so be aware of that threat'."

An official from the Russian government's tourism department said Russia would not be advising its citizens to avoid Egypt, the ITAR-TASS news agency reported. "It would play into the hands of terrorists," Sergei Sinitsyn said.

Terroranschlag in Scharm el Scheich, Ägypten

A woman walks among the debris in front of Gazala Gardens Hotel

The Netherlands advised its nationals to stay close to beaches and stick to well marked roads in Sinai but did not suggest planned trips should be abandoned.

But Sweden, Denmark and Italy told travelers to cancel any planned visits to the Sinai peninsula.

Denmark, which said two of its nationals had been slightly hurt in the blasts that targeted tourist-packed hotels, warned "all unnecessary travel" to the region should be avoided. "Tourists are advised to stay in their hotels until further notice and follow the instructions of the local authorities," the Danish foreign ministry said, although there were no immediate plans to evacuate the roughly 650 Danes vacationing in the Sharm el-Sheik area.

Italy's foreign ministry advised Italians not to travel to the area, prompting cancellations in massive numbers, according to travel agencies. Italians are normally among the resort's most faithful visitors.

Thomas Cook, Europe's second-largest travel agency, announced on Saturday all its flights to Sharm el-Sheikh would be suspended. The German-based company said all journeys to Egypt this summer could be changed for no cost until August 6 and that clients could choose another destination or postpone their trip.

France asked any of its nationals in Sharm el-Sheikh to report to French authorities at the scene, and urged citizens to "exercise the greatest caution" if traveling to Egypt in the coming days. The foreign ministry set up a crisis cell and a hotline number for those seeking information about loved ones vacationing in Egypt.

French tour operators reported about half the passengers planning to go to the area had decided to call off their trips but others already in Cairo wanted to go head with plans to visit Sharm el-Sheikh.

Where is it safe to go on holiday?

A German Sunday newspaper asked where in the world it was safe to go on holiday following the wave of bombings. The attacks on Saturday in which German holidaymakers were among the injured came one week after a suicide bombing killed five people in a Turkish Aegean resort, another popular destination for German sun-seekers.

"Where is it still safe to go on holiday?," the Bild am Sonntag asked in a front-page headline.

Pointing out that the bombings of trains and a bus in London had shown that even trips to other western European capitals were not without risk, Bild offered travelers a 15-point checklist to consult before they go abroad. It included the advice that foreign visitors are statistically safer if they stay in small hotels rather than large complexes such as the Ghazala Garden hotel which was destroyed in the main Sharm el-Sheikh bomb.

Rolf Tophoven, an expert from a German institute which specializes in researching the risks to tourists told Bild: "The bigger the hotel, the higher the number of deaths and injuries. "And terrorists want to achieve the greatest possible shock value."

Deutscher Urlauber kehrt aus Scharm el Scheich, Ägypten zurück

Emotional scenes at the Frankfurt airport as German tourists return home

German holidaymakers returning from Sharm el-Sheikh arrived back at Frankfurt airport in emotional scenes late on Saturday. Fifty-three passengers who had booked holidays with the giant German tour operator TUI returned on a flight from Egypt, some in tears.

Other flights carrying Germans were arriving throughout the day.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder said the attacks "showed disdain for human life" and had targeted "innocent people, Egyptians and foreign tourists alike."

"The horrible attacks of recent weeks demand even more intensive international cooperation, in order to dismantle terrorist networks that are even more cruel," he said.

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