Police have retrieved 1,400 kilograms of explosives buried in two caches far apart in Sinai, security officials said Friday.
The intended use of the explosives is under investigation, but preliminary indications were that a cache of 1,000 kilograms found 30 kilometers east of Gaza was to be smuggled across the border. A second cache of 400 kilograms found east of the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya appeared to be for Egyptian militants.
The discoveries are the second large haul of explosives in Sinai in eight days. On Oct. 27, police seized one ton of explosives in the Rissan mountains 30 kilometers east of Israel.
Capt. Mohammed Badr of North Sinai police said local Bedouin tribesmen on Friday led the police to the first cache, packed in 15 sacks, in the desert district of Gifgafa, about 100 kilometers south of El Arish.
A local clan leader, Sheik Mohammed el-Ghanem, said he believed the explosives were going to be smuggled into Gaza.
"Unemployment is pushing some locals to seek this kind of business, in which they are paid by militants to sneak explosives outside our borders," el-Ghanem said.
Smuggling across the Sinai border into Gaza or Israel has long been a way of life for some Bedouin. The merchandise includes weapons, cigarettes and foreigners seeking jobs in Israel.
Israel has repeatedly accused Egypt of not doing enough to stop smuggling of weapons, particularly via tunnels. Egypt has rejected the allegations but recently said it would make a greater effort to stop smuggling.
An Interior Ministry official said that Bedouin trackers working for the authorities had found the second cache southeast of Ismailiya on Friday.
The TNT appeared to be of the same kind that was used by militants in terror attacks on Sinai beach resorts, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to talk to the media.
Islamic militants have carried out three major bomb attacks in Sinai's tourist resorts since October 2004, killing a total of 124 people.