Egypt: Sinai shark attacks could be Israeli plot

Israel rejects the notion as "too ludicrous" for comment; German woman killed near Sharm e-Sheikh, Russian tourists also mauled.

By ARIEH O’SULLIVAN / THE MEDIA LINE
December 6, 2010 21:57
3 minute read.
Sharm el-Sheikh

sharm el sheikh 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

 
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Egyptian officials say they have not ruled out the possibility that a fatal shark attack in Sinai on Sunday could have been a plot by the Mossad.

“What is being said about the Mossad throwing the deadly shark [in the sea] to hit tourism in Egypt is not out of the question, but it needs time to confirm,” South Sinai Gov.

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Muhammad Abdel Fadil Shousha was quoted as saying by the Egyptian state news site egynews.net.

Israeli officials said the claims were too ludicrous to comment on. Israel has issued an advisory warning against travel to Sinai due to plots against Israelis by terrorist groups linked to al-Qaida.

The fatal shark attack in the Red Sea off the coast of the resort town of Sharm e-Sheikh killed a German tourist, just days after four Russians were mauled by sharks and Egypt declared that the waters were safe.

Experts said that despite announcements that Egypt had caught the shark, the one actually responsible for the maulings was still on the loose.

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Sunday’s attack happened at Nama Bay when a shark bit off the arm of a snorkling German tourist. The woman reportedly died immediately, reports said.

The general manager of the Sharm e-Sheikh Marriott Hotel in Nama Bay, Nagy Arafat, told The Media Line that they closed the beaches until further notice.

“This is something I’ve never seen before. I have never had any sightings of sharks in the area and if we ever did, it was in the deep waters and not up on the beach,” Arafat said.

He stressed that the mood was “calm and cool.”

“We don’t see it affecting the tourism industry in any big way,” Arafat said.

But Aviv Levy, a shark expert and the curator of the Underwater Observatory Marine Park in Eilat, said the Egyptians usually engaged in “smoke screening” when it came to shark attacks.

“Something is very strange here. The Egyptians are trying to hide it,” Levy told The Media Line. “This is very bad news for the sharks. It was strange after the first attacks last week and now even more so.”

Egyptian authorities launched a hunt for sharks after four Russian swimmers were mauled at the Red Sea resort last week. Over the weekend, government conservation officials released photos of two captured sharks: an oceanic whitetip and a mako.

The mayor of Sharm e-Sheikh had announced that the beaches were reopened after authorities deemed that the sharks no longer posed a threat and that it was safe to go back into the waters. The sandy resort at the tip of the Sinai Peninsula is popular with European tourists and attracts over 3 million visitors a year.

Shousha speculated that the sharks in the deep sea could have become frenzied after a ship transporting livestock dumped dead sheep into the waters.

But Levy said they were more likely becoming bolder after overfishing forced them closer to shores.

“They are taking away their fishing places and there are less fish so they are spreading their range of searching for food.

This is when the sharks and humans meet,” Levy said. “But sharks usually recognize a person and turn around.”

According to Levy, attacks in the Gulf of Aqaba happen only once every couple of years and are very rarely fatal.

“When I heard they were going out to catch the sharks, I thought to myself that it’ll now be open season on sharks. It’s going to be difficult for them now. As it is, the shark population has been dwindling and we don’t see the big ones we used to anymore,” he said.

Michael Grubb and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.

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