Egypt arrests 26 over suspected Suez Canal plot

Egypt carries out preemptive clampdowns on terror suspects


Egyptian security forces arrested 26 suspected al-Qaeda loyalists on charges of plotting attacks on foreign ships passing through the Suez Canal, the interior ministry said on Thursday, in the latest of a series of clampdowns and evictions on suspected Islamists.

The suspects, 25 Egyptians and a Palestinian named Tamer Mohamed Moussa, reportedly headed by mob leader Mohammed Faheem Hussein, were in contact with the al-Qaeda-linked Islamic Army of Palestine, the ministry said in a statement.

The cell carried out a deadly armed robbery of a Coptic Christian owned jewelry shop in Cairo in May 2008 in which the owner and four workers were killed. The gun used in the attack has also been found, the statement said.

Five suspects "gave detailed confessions on carrying out (the attack)... to fund their activities," it said.

Egypt's MENA News reported that arrested members allegedly confessed to receiving donations from abroad to fund their activities through the internet under the guise of Islamic charity work.

They also confessed to plotting to carry out attacks against targets in Egypt, such as foreign ships through the Suez Canal and oil pipelines.

The security source explained the clampdown was part of the government's intensified security efforts to thwart attempts by foreign terrorist organizations to form networks with the country's extremist elements.

Copies of books on jihad (religious struggle) were seized at the different places of arrest among them being the canonical 'Milestones' a book on modern day Islamic struggle by Seyyid Qutb, the leading intellectual of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1950s and 1960s.

More cells

In May, the interior ministry said it had arrested seven members of another alleged al-Qaeda-affiliated cell over a Cairo bazaar bombing that killed a teenage French tourist.

That cell called itself the Islamic Army of Palestine and was led by two Egyptians living abroad, one of them reportedly in Gaza.

A month before, the public prosecutor said that 49 people had been charged with forming a Hezbollah cell suspected of planning attacks against tourist resorts and ships passing through the Suez Canal.

Twenty-five of the suspects were arrested with the others on the run.

But Hezbolah leader Hassan Nasrallah denied seeking to destablize the Egyptian government although he acknowledged that Sami Shihab, one of the people arrested, was a member of the Shiite group.

(With Agencies)