Egypt arrests 7 terror attack suspects

Authorities identify group responsible for February bombing in Cairo as Palestinian Islamic Army.

egypt cairo blast 248 88 (photo credit: AP)
egypt cairo blast 248 88
(photo credit: AP)
The Egyptian Interior Ministry on Saturday announced it had arrested seven people from an al-Qaida-linked group that carried out an attack in February on a famed Cairo bazaar, killing a French teenager. The ministry said the suspects were part of a group called the Palestinian Islamic Army, which is led by two Egyptian nationals, who remained at large outside the country. The arrested include two Palestinians, two Egyptians, a British-Egyptian, a Belgian-Tunisian and a French-Albanian woman, some of whom had entered Egypt as students. An Egyptian security official said members of the group would sneak into Gaza through tunnels under the Egyptian border to receive special training and instructions in the Palestinian territory. One of the seven arrested confessed to carrying out the bombing last February at Cairo's Khan el-Khalili bazaar, but the official refused to identify him or her. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the press, said the group wanted to target other tourist sites in the country and oil installations in the western desert. He said the organization was able to create weapons and explosive materials from leftover munitions recovered from the Sinai desert. Two women - one of whom was arrested - were said to be responsible for transporting money to fund the organization's activities. The blast last February went off in the main square of the sprawling market, which was packed with tourists and Egyptians - including more than 40 high school students from the Paris suburb of Levallois-Perret. A government spokesman said the bomb was placed under a stone bench in a cafe where the French students were sitting in the square, next to one of Cairo's most revered shrines, the Hussein mosque. There was no claim of responsibility for the bombing, which was the first against tourists in Egypt in three years. Several experts on Islamic militancy in Egypt said the attack may have been carried out in anger over Egypt's response to Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip. During Israel's onslaught, Egypt came under heavy criticism around the Arab world for what some saw as its failure to help Gazans.