The almost simultaneous bombings, the third attack against Sinai peninsula resorts in 18 months, drew condemnation from world leaders and President Hosni Mubarak vowed to punish the perpetrators of these "heinous acts of terrorism."
Three bombs ripped through Egypt's Red Sea resort of Dahab during a peak holiday season (AFP Photo)
The interior ministry said 20 Egyptians and three foreigners, including a German baby, were among the dead. Security officials had earlier said a Swiss national and a Russian were killed.
The bombs hit the Ghazala supermarket and the Nelson and Aladdin restaurants in the busiest part of Dahab, a popular destination for divers and backpackers whose name means gold in Arabic.
Medical staff at Dahab hospital were in the process of identifying more of the victims before sending them to the nearest morgue in Sharm el-Sheikh at the tip of the Sinai.
French, American, British, Italian, Arab and Israeli nationals were among the injured, according to security sources.
State television said the blasts appeared to have been the result of remote-controlled bombs, not suicide bombers.
But officials also noted the absence of craters where the bombs went off, in what foreign security experts said would point to blasts caused by suicide bombers wearing explosives belts.
Footage of the scene aired by Egyptian state television showed lumps of flesh lying in pools of blood in front of the mangled remains of shopfronts in Dahab, which lies on the southeast coast of the peninsula about 530 kilometres (330 miles) by road from Cairo.
No-one immediately claimed credit for the attacks, which came one day after a new audiotape of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden surfaced accusing the "crusaders" of the West of waging war against Islam, referring to the conflict in Darfur and the isolation of the Hamas-led Palestinian government.
Dahab, which is popular with Western backpackers and budget Israeli tourists, was also packed with Egyptians enjoying a public holiday.
The bombers struck on Sham el-Nessim, a traditional holiday which marks the beginning of spring, and a day before Sinai Liberation Day which celebrates Israel's withdrawal from the peninsula in 1982.
The resorts of Egypt's south Sinai peninsula have been repeatedly hit by Islamist militants.
Multiple bombings in Sharm el-Sheikh killed about 70 people in July 2005, the deadliest to have hit Egypt since a major wave of Islamist attacks in the mid-1990s, many targeting foreigners.
At least 34 people were killed in several simultaneous attacks in and around the resort of Taba further up the Red Sea coast near the Israeli border in October 2004.
Four groups claimed the Sharm el-Sheikh bombings, including Al-Tawhid wal Jihad, an Islamist movement which said the attacks were revenge for the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and out of allegiance to bin Laden.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan "condemns this act of terror targeting innocent people," his spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said in a statement.
US President George W. Bush branded the Dahab bombings a "heinous act".
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw described the attacks as "appalling" and added: "Once again terrorists have demonstrated their callous disregard for human life."
|Debris litters an open restaurant following several explosions in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Dahab late 24 April 2006 (AFP Photo)|
His Canadian counterpart Peter MacKay said, "Canada strongly condemns this terrorist act, and we are profoundly troubled by such events."
Israeli prime minister-designate Ehud Olmert also sent his condolences to Mubarak and his office said the two leaders discussed "the need for cooperation between the two countries in the fight against international terrorism."
The streets of Dahab were immediately sealed off by police and Egyptian security sources said the border with Israel, which lies only around 90 miles north of Dahab, was closed to prevent the attackers from fleeing.
A state of alert was declared at the main hospital in the Israeli border town of Eilat to handle any casualties sent for treatment there and to free up doctors for dispatch to the scene.
Tourism is Egypt's main source of income: according to government figures, a record 8.6 million people visited the country in 2005 despite the deadly attacks in Sharm el-Sheikh.