Expert blames Sharm attack on illegal shark feeding

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Illegal feeding may have sparked a rampage by a killer shark that has terrorised holidaymakers in Egypt's popular Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, a marine expert said on Tuesday.

Mohammed Salem, director of South Sinai Conservation, said the timing and location of three attacks in a week off Sharm el-Sheikh pointed to shark feeding, which is banned in Egypt.

"We think someone accustomed the sharks to being fed and whoever did it has stopped," so the sharks started to look elsewhere for easy prey, he told AFP. "This is the biggest possibility."

Salem said the attacks occurred within a roughly eight-kilometre (five-mile) stretch of shore, including the busy Naama Bay, in the afternoons, suggesting the sharks had been used to being fed at around that time of day.

A team of foreign experts were Tuesday in Sharm el-Sheikh to join forces with local officials to probe the attacks and determine what brought the sharks so close to shore.

Also on Tuesday, professional divers only were allowed back into the pristine Red Sea waters which are rich with coral reefs, officials from South Sinai governorate said.

The women attacked on Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday of last week were snorkellers or swimmers but not divers.

In the last attack, a shark ripped apart a 70-year-old German woman snorkeller on Sunday as horrified holidaymakers looked on, just days after three Russian women swimmers were also mauled.

Authorities had closed beaches in Sharm el-Sheikh after the attacks on November 30 and December 1 but reopened them last Saturday, on the eve of the fatal mauling.

© 2010 AFP

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