Egypt 'Foils Qaida-Linked Plot against Western Embassy'

Egypt's interior minister said on Saturday police arrested three members of an al-Qaida-linked cell in an alleged transnational plot to bomb a Western embassy and other targets in the country.

The suspects were arrested with explosives intended to be used to bomb a Western embassy after an investigation showed threads in Pakistan, Iran and Algeria, Mohamed Ibrahim said at a news conference.

Police "have delivered a successful blow against a terror cell plotting suicide bomb attacks," said the interior minister.

He did not identify the embassy, but said the militants "were on the verge" of attacking it using a suicide bomber or by detonating a bomb packed with ammonium nitrate -- a common fertilizer.

Ibrahim said the suspects were captured with 10 kilos (22 pounds) of the fertilizer, and a computer containing instructions on bomb-making.

The militants had been in touch with an al-Qaida leader outside the country, identified as Kurdi Dawud al-Assadi who is "the head of al-Qaida in some west Asian countries," Ibrahim said.

One of the suspects associated with al-Qaida members in Algeria and received training from the loose-knit militant organization in Pakistan and Iran, Ibrahim said.

"They were in electronic communication with al-Qaida in Pakistan," he said, adding that they were also in touch with an al-Qaida facilitator on the Turkish border.

He did not specify which of the eight countries that Turkey shares a border with, although these include Iran, Iraq and Syria.

According to Ibrahim, Assadi had instructed the suspects to coordinate with two alleged militants before their capture last October after a firefight that killed a gunman in a Cairo apartment.

The suspects arrested in October, also alleged to have al-Qaida links, are now on trial.

Fuad Allam, a retired interior ministry general who helped crack down on Islamist militants in the 1980s, said he believed militants identifying with al-Qaida have begun to coalesce after the Arab Spring uprisings.

"The terror cells (in the region) are beginning to gather, they seem to have an organization," he told Agence France Presse.

One of the suspects arrested in October allegedly had links to a September attack on the U.S. embassy in the Libyan city of Benghazi that killed ambassador Chris Stevens.

Egypt has in the past announced the arrest of al-Qaida-linked militants in the country which has seen a low-level Islamist insurgency and militant attacks on tourist sites over the past three decades.

Some of the veteran Egyptian Islamist militants are now in al-Qaida's leadership -- most prominently Ayman al-Zawahiri who heads the extremist organization founded by Osama bin Laden.

Others had been jailed and recanted violence before their release following the 2011 uprising that overthrew president Hosni Mubarak.

There has been a resurgence in militant attacks since the uprising, confined to the sparsely populated Sinai peninsula, in which both Egyptian troops and neighboring Israel have been targeted.

Ibrahim said the three suspects had been in touch with an al-Qaida-affiliated militant in Sinai.

In August, an attack on an army outpost in Sinai that killed 16 soldiers prompted the largest military operation in the peninsula since Israel handed the territory back to Egypt following a 1979 peace agreement.

After the attack, the militants commandeered an Egyptian military vehicle into Israel, where they were killed in an Israeli helicopter strike.

No one has declared responsibility for that attack, but other attacks on Israel including cross-border suicide attacks and rocket fire have been claimed by the Mujahedeen Shura Council, which identifies with al-Qaida.

Source: Agence France Presse

Copyright © 2012 All Rights Reserved.