sharm el sheikh 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
CAIRO — Egyptian authorities arrested four suspects on suspicion of spying for Israel and plotting to damage the economy by kidnapping tourists, a security official said.
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The official revealed Sunday that the suspects, all Egyptian nationals, set up offices in Egypt, Britain, Israel, and Gaza to allegedly record officials' phone conversations and collect information about Japanese and Chinese tourists visiting the Sinai Peninsula.
The plan, according to the official, was for agents of Israel to then briefly kidnap the tourists, disrupting the Egypt's vital tourism sector and damaging the economy.
Israel said that it had no information about the case.
"We are not familiar with the charges," said Israeli Foreign Ministry Yigal Palmor. "We will have to look into it in order to understand what this is all about."
Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a peace agreement with Israel in 1979, however, relations have been cool and Egyptian authorities have since periodically arrested and convicted people of spying for the Jewish state.
Detained since May, the suspects have given detailed confessions about the case and authorities have notified Interpol about the two Israeli officers working as their handlers, the official said.
The suspects are facing charges of espionage and forming a terrorist cell.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. The case has also been widely reported in the local press.
News about the longstanding case came out as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak publicly criticized Israel for causing a stalemate in peace talks with the Palestians.