Egypt arrests Qaeda cell over deadly bombing

CAIRO, May 23, 2009 (AFP) - Egypt said on Saturday that police have arrested seven members of an Al-Qaeda-affiliated cell over a Cairo bazaar bombing three months ago that killed a French tourist.

The interior ministry said those arrested over the February attack were a French woman of Albanian origin, a British man of Egyptian descent, two Palestinians, a Belgian man of Tunisian descent, and two Egyptians.

"(Police) were able through information received and surveillance, to identify a group, some of them Egyptians and others foreigners, affiliated with Al-Qaeda... and seven of them were arrested," it said in a statement.

An Egyptian minister had announced on Monday the arrest of suspects over the attack in the famed Khan al-Khalili bazaar on February 22 but gave no details on the number detained.

A French teenager was killed and 24 people, mostly tourists, were injured in the bombing, the first deadly attack on tourists in Egypt since 2006.

The ministry said members of the cell, which called itself the Islamic Army of Palestine and was led by two Egyptians living abroad, were found in possession of weapons and explosives.

"(The cell) worked on organising terrorist operations in the country and outside," the ministry said, without giving a date for the arrests.

The Belgian suspect told police during his interrogation that he had been instructed to accompany Al-Qaeda operatives from Belgium to France to carry out an attack there, it said.

The ministry said some members of the cell had travelled to the Gaza Strip through cross-border smuggling tunnels to receive military training there.

"Some members were commissioned to enter Gaza to receive advanced training in explosives preparation...before returning to the country," it said.

Some suspects said they had also been instructed to carry out attacks against tourist resorts and fuel pipelines in the Sinai peninsula, the statement said.

Egypt saw a spate of deadly bombings, which killed dozens of tourists and Egyptians, in Sinai resorts on the Red Sea between 2004 and 2006 which the authorities blamed on militants loyal to Al-Qaeda.

Human rights groups accused police at the time of torturing suspects and of carrying out illegal arrests.

Source: AFP

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