It can now be confirmed that some three months ago, Egypt arrested 49 terrorists whom it claims had been handled by Hezbollah and Iranian intelligence in order to bring down President Hosni Mubarak’s regime, to shatter the internal security in Egypt and to smuggle munitions and funds into Gaza to support terrorism there.
The affair began last November, when Egyptian intelligence received information about intentions of Iranian intelligence to cause riots in Egypt and to open centers for teaching radical Shiite Islam in the Sunni state through the infiltration of agents.
A month later, Hezbollah Secretary General Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah attempted to inflame the Egyptian masses and called on them to start large-scale demonstrations against Mr. Mubarak’s regime and hinted at his organization’s intention to kidnap Israelis in Sinai.
On Jan. 17, at the height of Israel’s operation in Gaza, Mr. Nasrallah’s tone became even more harsh and he called on Egyptian soldiers to oppose their president. According to the Egyptians, in the course of his speech Nasrallah concealed code words aimed at ordering the terrorists cells to perform a series of attacks in Sinai, Cairo, Alexandria and across the Suez Canal, including the kidnapping of Israelis. However, immediately following the speech, the Egyptian GSS raided the hideout apartments rented by the 49 operatives across Egypt and arrested the members.
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Heading the terrorists cell was the Lebanese Sami Shihab and two Palestinian brothers who had smuggled their way into Egypt with fake passports. It appears that one of the cells dealt with forging passports and identification cards and these provided the operatives with the means of renting warehouses and apartments where they met and hid munitions making their way from Sudan. Those arrested were mostly of Egyptian nationality, others were Sudanese and one Syrian.
Immediately following their arrest, the suspects admitted to having been recruited by Hezbollah’s operational division. A short while later it became clear that two of the arrested were staff members of Iran’s television station operating in Cairo. These admitted to having been operated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
“There is a clear Iranian involvement in the formation of terrorist cells in Egypt,” said a senior security source yesterday.
The terrorists’ trial began last week behind closed doors and the indictment lists a long series of attempts to harm President Mubarak’s regime as well as tourist sites in Sinai. The indictment also attributes the suspects with an attempt to recruit Bedouins into the terrorist cells and to smuggle munitions as well as funds into Gaza.
Meanwhile, the Middle East Newsline has confirmed from security sources that Egyptian intelligence has found evidence that Israeli Arabs were being recruited by Islamic insurgency groups. The sources said the Israelis had become members of Hamas and Hizbullah and were assigned to enter Egypt as tourists and students.
“The public prosecutor received a note from state security about information confirmed through interrogation about Hizbullah leaders who sent elements to the country to attract members and persuade them to carry out aggressive acts inside the country,” Egyptian Attorney General Abdul Meguid Mahmoud said on Wednesday.
Egypt has arrested at least seven Israeli Arabs on charges of aiding Hamas on behalf of Hezbollah. They said most of the suspects, reported to have been Bedouins from Israel’s Negev Desert, were believed to have been recruited by Hezbollah while they were in Israel.
Mr. Mahmoud said the detainees had been identifying targets in the Suez Canal and along the Egyptian border with the Gaza Strip, including tourist villages in the Sinai Peninsula. The suspects were also accused of forging passports as well as smuggling weapons to the Hamas regime.
“They have been provided with quantities of explosives and the means to make bombs,” Mr. Mahmoud said.
On Thursday, the Egyptian government-owned Al Ahram daily said Iran had ordered the formation of the Hizbullah network as part of a plan to attack Egypt. Al Ahram, quoting a senior security official, said the Hizbullah network, led by Lebanese national Sami Hani Shihab, planned a series of simultaneous attacks throughout Egypt.
The Egyptian announcement, dismissed by the Islamic opposition as an attempt to pressure Lebanon, was issued a day after Israel warned its nationals to leave Sinai immediately. The warning reported a Hezbollah plot against Israeli tourists.
A leading Islamic attorney was said to have been defending the Israeli Arabs and other foreigners linked to Hamas and Hezbollah. Montasser El Zayat said Egyptian intelligence arrested 50 foreigners since last November.
He said they included Egyptians, Lebanese and Palestinians.
“Most of the arrests took place in December 2008,” Mr. El Zayat said.
Islamic sources said Egypt has intensified the monitoring of young Arabs from such countries as Israel, Lebanon and Jordan. They said Egyptian intelligence has concluded that Hamas and Hezbollah were coordinating logistics, fundraising and other missions in Egypt.
David Bedein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org