Egypt: French, Belgian terror suspects to be deported

Egypt said Monday that suspects had formed a militant cell that was plotting attacks in Middle East.

egypt terror 298 88 ap (photo credit: )
egypt terror 298 88 ap
(photo credit: )
Egyptian officials plan to deport eight French citizens and two Belgians arrested as part of a suspected terror cell on Thursday morning, Egyptian officials said. Security was tight at the Cairo International Airport in Egypt's capital Wednesday night when the Europeans arrived ahead of a special flight bound for Brussels then Paris, an airport official said. An Interior Ministry official confirmed the number and nationalities of those who were being deported. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to give information to the media. It wasn't immediately clear what would happen to an American and another French citizen arrested as part of the same cell. But it appeared that Egyptian authorities wanted to keep the other suspects for questioning. Earlier Wednesday another Interior Ministry official said French and Egyptian authorities were negotiating the deportation of seven of the nine French arrested earlier in the week. The Egyptian Interior Ministry announced Monday that it had arrested nine French and the American, along with two Belgians and several others from Egypt and other Arab countries. The ministry said they were living in Egypt under the guise of studying Arabic and Islamic studies but had formed a militant cell that was plotting attacks in Middle Eastern countries including Iraq. No further details were given. On Tuesday, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack criticized Egypt for refusing to grant US Embassy officials timely access to the arrested American. Egyptian authorities told US officials that no access will be granted until the investigation is completed, he said. The identities of the American and the others arrested have not been disclosed. 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 group. Egypt has witnessed a string of suicide terror attacks in recent years at Sinai Peninsula tourist resorts. Egypt operates under emergency laws, which gives the government wide powers to detain suspects without charging them. The laws have been in place since the assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981 despite a growing chorus of opposition from both inside and outside the country.