The Egyptian authorities arrested a terrorist cell suspected to be linked to al-Qaeda in the suburbs of Cairo's eastern district of Nasr City. The arrest has raised fears that the violence that has swept the Sinai Peninsula could move to Cairo and the regional provinces.
Al-Hayat learned that Egypt’s intelligence agency interrogated five suspects accused of terrorism. Some have speculated that the suspects are linked to the attack against the United States consulate in Benghazi.
Security sources revealed to Al-Hayat that a number of leaders of jihadist and Takfir groups moved to other Egyptian provinces after having been severely restricted in the Sinai. The sources added that security services are tracking them in the provinces of Cairo, Alexandria, Gharbiya, Giza, al-Qalyubiya and Suez.
The Egyptian authorities have arrested five people over the past two days, including one Tunisian and a former Egyptian officer. A Libyan was killed during an exchange of fire with police.
It was reported that the Egypt’s intelligence agency is interrogating the cell members to find out if they are linked to Sheikh Mohammed Gamal Al-Kashef — known as Abu Ahmed — who was released by the Egyptian authorities after the revolution. They accuse him of training the perpetrators of the attack against the US embassy in training camps in the Libyan desert.
The sources mentioned that the investigation revealed that Kashef is closely linked to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, who delegated him to lead some members of the group in Egypt and Libya. However, the sources did not confirm whether Kashef is present on Egyptian soil.
They stressed that he was the mastermind behind several operations conducted by al-Qaeda in the recent past — particularly in Libya and Yemen — following the instructions of Zawahiri. Moreover, he was given the green light to conduct jihadist operations in Egypt and Libya.
The sources confirmed that the members of the terrorist cell that the police arrested in the suburb of Nasr City were wearing military uniforms. They also revealed that the Takfir groups’ members that were arrested earlier in the Sinai had given information about the presence of Takfir members — mostly linked to al-Qaeda — in several Egyptian provinces.
These members had arrived in the Sinai following the revolution, and were trained on the use of firearms. They later left the peninsula once Operation Eagle was launched in early September.
Well-informed security sources told Al-Hayat that security agencies continue to track down the groups’ members in the provinces of Gharbiya, Alexandria, Cairo, Giza, al-Qalyubiya and Suez, on charges of planning to attack government interests.
The sources pointed out that “Egyptian homeland security is tracking down secret jihadist members and uncovering sleeper cells that are waiting to receive orders from their leaders to act.” The sources noted that communication between the cell's leaders and members had been monitored.
A leader from the Muslim Brotherhood, Najeh Ibrahim, confirmed that jihadist and Takfir group members are present in several Egyptian provinces, and anticipated that dozens of cells will be uncovered.
He noted, “Takfir and al-Qaeda’s ideologies are being promoted within Egyptian social circles. Their mosques are well-known and they go by a variety of names, such as al-Daawa Wal Jihad. They now only need to form an organization and receive orders from abroad to carry out operations inside Egypt.”
Former deputy of the state security apparatus Maj. Gen. Fouad Allam confirmed the spread of jihadist groups in Egypt. He warned that “these members may combine into a single organization, similar to the Islamist organizations that pursued violence in the 1990s. This would present a serious threat to the country.”
He said that “not only is it necessary to confront their ideology with a security grip, but it is also imperative that Al-Azhar review this ideology, as well as the political and social conditions that pushed them to pursue violence.”