-Taken from 'The Guardian' (with Anil Dawar)
-Cairo - February 2009
At least one tourist was killed and 21 people injured when a bomb exploded in a crowded Cairo marketplace yesterday, Egyptian police said. The explosion happened in the Khan el-Khalili bazaar, which is popular with tourists, in the centre of the capital.
Last night, the Egyptian health ministry reported that a 17-year-old French girl had been killed. Officials said at least 21 people were hurt, including 13 French, one German and three Saudi tourists, and four Egyptians.
The blast happened shortly after 5.30pm last night. Around an hour after the first explosion, police found a second explosive device and detonated it safely. Security officials said three people were in custody.
Different sources reported variously that the bomb had been thrown from a passing motorcycle or a hotel window, but a government statement said the attack involved a homemade device placed under a bench in the main plaza.
A police colonel at the scene said the bomb went off outside a cafe, sending stone and marble fragments into the air, wounding bystanders.
Magdy Ragab, 42, a waiter at a nearby cafe, said: "We were serving our customers and all of a sudden there was a large sound. We saw heavy grey smoke and there were people running everywhere. Some people were injured by the stampede, not the shrapnel." Witnesses reported seeing blood on the marble paving stones in front of the historic Hussein mosque.
Riot police cordoned off the area and sniffer dogs could be seen as worshippers were evacuated from the mosque.
"I was praying and there was a big boom and people started panicking and rushing out of the mosque, then police came and sealed the main door, evacuating us out of the back," said Muhammad Abdel Azim, 56, who was inside the Hussein mosque at the time of the explosion.
Montasser el-Zayat, a lawyer who has represented Islamic extremists, told the Arabic news channel al-Jazeera that the attack might be linked to popular anger over the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip last month. "The nature of the explosion looks like an act carried out by young, inexperienced amateurs whose emotions were inflamed by the events of Gaza."
One of the country's highest religious officials, Sheikh of Al-Azhar Muhammad Sayyed Tantawi, said of the attack: "Those who carried out this criminal act are traitors to their religion and country and are distorting the image of Islam, which rejects terrorism and prohibits the killing of innocents."
The Khan el-Khalili, which sells tourist souvenirs, gold and silver jewellery and traditional handicrafts, was last attacked in 2005, when a suicide bomber detonated a homemade bomb and killed two French tourists and an American.
There have been a number of attacks in recent years against resorts in the country's Sinai peninsula, including one in 2005 that killed more than 60 people.