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11 held after bomb attack at bazaar

EGYPTIAN police have detained 11 people for questioning over the bomb which killed a French teenager and wounded at least 21 people near a popular tourist bazaar in Cairo on Sunday, police sources said yesterday.

The detainees, all Egyptians, were in the area around the time of the explosion.

The sources did not say if the police had any hard evidence against the detainees.

After security incidents, Egyptian police usually cast their net wide and then release most of the people questioned.

The bomb, planted under a bench near the Khan el-Khalili market in mediaeval Cairo, was the first attack on tourists in the city since April 2005 and the first in Egypt since an April 2006 bombing in the Sinai resort of Dahab.

The wounded included 13 French tourists, three Saudis, one German and four Egyptians.

The 17-year-old girl who died, who has not been named, was on a trip with 41 other teenage students, said Patrick Balkany, the mayor of her hometown, Levallois-Perret, a suburb on Paris's northwest edge.

The students were nearing the end of their trip when the attack occurred, Balkany said. Some of the students had serious wounds, and others were suffering psychological shock, he said.

Three French teenagers remained in intensive care yesterday.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon denounced what he called an "odious attack."

"There are people who want to destabilize Egypt, which is one of the moderate countries in the region," Fillon said in Paris. "It is an illustration of the violence that we must eradicate."

Sunday night's explosion raised worries in Egypt of wider damage to the country's vital tourism industry, which is already suffering from the global economic meltdown.

No one has claimed responsibility and analysts said the bomb was probably the work of a small group of disgruntled Egyptians, similar to the one that carried out two operations in 2005.

The Egyptian tourist industry accounts for about 7 percent of gross domestic product.

At the Egyptian Museum in downtown Cairo, on the banks of the Nile about 3 kilometers from Khan el-Khalili, the usual crowds poured in to see antiquities including the treasures found in the tomb of the Pharaoh Tutankhamen.

Vassili Tawadros, who runs the Ding Dong bazaar near the museum, said: "We work our whole business with tourists. These things happen and it's very bad for our business and for Egypt."

The Khan el-Khalili, a 650-year-old bazaar of narrow, winding alleys dotted with old Islamic mosques, monuments and shops, is one of the top tourist spots in Cairo.

In April 2005, a suicide bomber in the market killed himself, two French citizens and an American.


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