DAHAB, Egypt - Foreign holidaymakers described scenes of carnage in Egypt's Sinai resort of Dahab after three bombs killed at least 23 people in the latest attack against the country's vital tourist industry.

A security source said that 10 people, all of them Egyptians, had been detained in connection with yesterday's bombings, but gave no details on what their involvement may have been or if they were connected with a specific group.

Despite the attacks, which also wounded around 60 people, most tourists said they planned to stay on in Dahab, a popular resort for diving, especially among backpackers.

About 100 Egyptians and foreigners, including Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, marched through Dahab yesterday chanting: "We love everyone", an effort to rally support for Egypt's vital tourism industry.

"We don't think we're going to change our plans. You end up thinking that it could happen anywhere these days," Swiss holiday maker Matthias Barlocher said before the march.

"(But) it doesn't feel right to be enjoying a holiday when you can see bloody footprints everywhere."

Trails of blood remained on a long stretch of Dahab's beach promenade, which is lined with restaurants on the seaward side and souvenir shops on the other.

Security officials said the explosions were probably from time bombs rather than suicide bombers. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blasts, which bore the hallmarks of previous attacks in the region by local militants.

A mysterious group has carried out two other clusters of bombs on Egypt's Red Sea coast in the last two years, killing around 100 people. Security experts downplay possible links to external militant groups such as al Qaeda but say they may serve as inspiration for local attackers.

One witness to yesterday's bombing, Australian Steve Torokfalvy, said he administered first aid to victims after an explosion smashed windows and blew out doors in his hotel.

"There was one guy who was in a really bad way, who when we turned him round, I saw half his face was missing, we just tried to comfort him until we could get more help," he said.

"From the top of the hotel you could see body parts on the roofs of the shops ... It was horrible, it was really horrible. I was thinking of leaving but I don't want the terrorists to win," he added.

Egypt's Interior Ministry said a young German boy was killed in the blasts, along with two other foreigners and 20 Egyptians.

Despite the carnage, Europe's two largest tourism firms, TUI and Thomas Cook, said just four customers wanted to cut short their holidays in the region.

Security officials said the bombs were primitive and looked home-made.

"These were bombs that contained gunpowder and nails and were fitted with timers," said one official, who asked not to be named. "It was very crowded and that's what increased the number of casualties."

The governor of South Sinai province, Mohammed Hani, said yesterday he thought suicide bombers were responsible. Dubai-based Al Arabiya television quoted a security source as saying that at least two suicide bombers had died in the blasts.

The injured included about 40 Egyptians, three Danes, three Britons, two Italians, two Germans, two French people, a South Korean, a Lebanese, a Palestinian, an American, an Israeli and an Australian, the Interior Ministry said.

Israel, which closed one of its border crossings with Egypt after the bombings and went onto alert, issued a travel warning and warned of a kidnap threats against its citizens.

It was the third set of attacks in Sinai since October 2004, when a small Sinai-based group attacked the Hilton hotel in the Taba resort, close to the Israeli border, and two beach camps.

That attack preceded another on the southern Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in July 2005, which killed more than 60 people.

In all cases, three bombs went off within minutes of each other on the evening of a holiday. In some cases the bombers used trucks, in others they left explosives in suitcases.

Witnesses who saw the damage in Sharm el-Sheikh said the bombs appeared to be smaller this time.

The Interior Ministry said the targets in Dahab were a restaurant, a cafe and a supermarket in the resort, which lies 80km north of Sharm el-Sheikh.

After the previous attacks many tourists cut short their holidays. But the resorts largely recovered within months despite warnings that the Sinai group may still be active.

The Egyptian authorities say the Sinai group was founded by a man of Palestinian origin who grew up in the north Sinai town of El Arish and adopted the views of militant Islamists.

They say the group has no known links with foreign organisations such as the al Qaeda group of Osama bin Laden.

The alleged founder, Iyad Said Saleh, died in the bombing at the Taba Hilton, apparently because he set the timer of his bomb wrongly, Egyptian police said at the time.

After the Taba bombings police detained hundreds of Bedouin in the Sinai region for questioning, but a Bedouin leader dismissed Bedouin involvement in the latest attack.

The Sharm el-Sheikh bombs thwarted government plans to attract 9 million tourists to the country in 2005.

Tourists bring in more than US$7 billion ($11.12 billion) a year and the tourism industry employs 10 per cent of the Egyptian workforce.

- REUTERS