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Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Egypt ties cell to man who blew himself up in Syria

Foreign Islamists arrested in Cairo last month, including nine Frenchmen and an American, had ties with a militant who blew himself up at the Lebanese-Syrian border last week, Egyptian security sources said Wednesday. The allegations were not immediately confirmed by foreign security sources, however, and several of the suspects were still expected to be flown to their home countries within days.

"There are links between this cell and the person who blew himself up on the Syrian-Lebanese border" in late November, a security official said on condition of anonymity.

The group of Islamists detained late last month in Cairo included nine Frenchmen, two Belgians, one American and multiple Egyptians, Tunisians and Syrians.

An Egyptian Interior Ministry statement Monday said the group had links to terror organizations outside Egypt and was involved in recruiting militants to wage "jihad" in Iraq.

The Syrian news agency had reported that Omar Abdullah, a military leader for the Tawhid wal Jihad group, blew himself up at the main border crossing between Syria and Lebanon on November 28, wounding two Syrian soldiers.

Tawhid wal Jihad is reportedly linked to the Jund al-Sham group that has carried out several attacks in Syria since 2003, including a strike near a former UN building in Damascus.

Despite the gravity of the accusations leveled against the cell, French and Egyptian authorities were negotiating the deportation of seven of the nine French suspects, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The two Belgians were also expected to be flown back to their country within days, security sources said.

"There are indications that seven Frenchmen will be deported and handed to French authorities for questioning over links with a terrorist organization which has ties to an international North African network headquartered in Tunisia and linked to Al-Qaeda," Egypt's top-selling state-run daily Al-Ahram said.

The newspaper did not provide further details on the alleged Tunisian organization and its links with the Cairo students.

The vast majority of suspects are in their mid-20s and were in Egypt to study Islam and Arabic.

Two of the detained Egyptian suspects were identified as Ramadan al-Nagdi and Islam Sabri, both students at Al-Azhar University's faculty of medicine, a security official said on condition of anonymity.

"Their role was to teach the rules and tenets of Islam to the other members of the group, including the foreigners," he said.

US authorities in Egypt have refused to comment or reveal the identity of the US suspect.

State Department spokes-man Sean McCormack criticized

Egypt on Tuesday for refusing to grant US Embassy officials timely access to the arrested American. Egyptian authorities told US officials that no access would be granted until the investigation is completed, he said.

French consular officials have been allowed to visit their detained citizens, French Foreign Ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei said.

He said Paris prosecutors have opened their own preliminary investigation into the suspects' activities.

"We are in contact with the Egyptian authorities" to find out exactly what the suspects are accused of, Mattei told reporters.

The Daily Star.

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