CAIRO, Egypt – An Al Qaeda linked group that claimed responsibility for previous attacks on tourist targets in Egypt also said it carried out Saturday's deadly bombings in the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh (search). A second group disputed the claim hours later, saying it was behind the carnage that left at least 88 people dead.
The group calling itself the Abdullah Azzam Brigades (search), Al Qaeda, in Syria and Egypt claimed it had carried out the attacks to avenge the killings of Muslims in Afghanistan, Iran and Chechnya and to strike at Israelis and the Egyptian regime, according to a statement posted on an Islamic Web site.
"Your brothers, the holy warriors of the martyr Abdullah Azzam Brigades succeeded in launching a smashing attack on the Crusaders, Zionists and the renegade Egyptian regime in Sharm el-Sheikh," it said.
The Islamist group was one of two that claimed responsibility for the Oct. 7 bombings at the tourist resorts of Taba and Ras Shitan, about 120 miles north of Sharm el-Sheikh in the Sinai peninsula. Those attacks killed 34 people.
The Abdullah Azzam Brigades was also one of two groups that claimed responsibility for a Cairo bombing and shooting on a tourist bus in late April.
But the previously unknown Mujahedi Masr (search) or "Holy Warriors of Egypt" group disputed the brigades' claim and said five of its own members died carrying out seven explosions.
The authenticity of both statements could not be immediately verified.
In attacks that appeared well coordinated, two car bombs, possibly driven by suicide attackers, went off simultaneously at 1:15 a.m. just more than 2 miles apart at the Ghazala Gardens hotel and the Old Market. A third bomb detonated around the same time near a beachside walkway where tourists often stroll at night.
The Mujahedi Masr statement claimed individual car bombs targeted the Ghazala hotel and Old Market, while five other bombs exploded elsewhere killing 80 to 120 people and injuring 200 to 400.
Egypt's Interior Minister Habib al-Adli said there are some indications the latest bombings were linked to the October attacks on Taba and Ras Shitan.
"We reaffirm that this operation was in response to the crimes committed by the forces of international evil, which are spilling the blood of Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan and Chechnya," the Abdullah Azzam Brigades statement said.
"We declare it loud and clear that we will not be frightened by the whips of the Egyptian torturers and we will not tolerate violation of our brothers' land of Sinai," the statement added in an apparent reference to tourists who travel from neighboring Israel to Sinai Peninsula for holidays.
The Abdullah Azzam Brigades are apparently named after Abdullah Azzam, a Palestinian who led Islamic militants in Afghanistan and was killed in 1989 by a roadside bomb. He was regarded as the one-time spiritual mentor of al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden.
Azzam studied Islamic theology in Egypt before traveling to Saudi Arabia where he lectured in Islamic law. During the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Azzam was financed by Saudi Arabia and other Islamic states to establish camps for Muslim militants who joined the fight against the Russian forces.