CAIRO: Egypt’s interior minister said on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) that police arrested three members of an al-Qaeda-linked cell in an alleged transnational plot to bomb a Western embassy and other targets in the country.
The suspects were arrested with explosives intended to be used to bomb a Western embassy after an investigation showed threads in Pakistan, Iran and Algeria, Mohamed Ibrahim said at a news conference.
Police “have delivered a successful blow against a terror cell plotting suicide bomb attacks,” the interior minister said.
He did not identify the embassy, but said the militants “were on the verge” of attacking it using a suicide bomber or by detonating a bomb packed with ammonium nitrate—a common fertilizer.
Ibrahim said that the suspects were captured with 10 kilos of the fertilizer, and a computer containing instructions on bomb making.
The militants had been in touch with an Al-Qaeda leader outside the country, identified as Kurdi Dawud al-Assadi who is “the head of Al-Qaeda in some west Asian countries,” Ibrahim said.
One of the suspects associated with Al-Qaeda members in Algeria and also received training from the loose-knit militant organization in Pakistan and Iran, Ibrahim said.
“They were in electronic communication with Al-Qaeda in Pakistan,” he said, adding that they were also in touch with an Al-Qaeda facilitator on the Turkish border.
He did not specify which of the eight countries that Turkey shares a border with, although these include Iran, Iraq and Syria.
The suspects’ lawyer, an Islamist who has defended other suspected militants in the past, said he attended their questioning on Saturday and claimed the prosecution had no evidence.
“There was no evidence, nothing,” Mamduh Ismail said. “This is just a case of the security apparatus trying to assert its worth,” he said. He disputed the allegation that the suspects were caught with explosives.
The official Middle East and North Africa (MENA) news agency reported that prosecutors have ordered two of the suspects, from the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, detained for questioning for a renewable 15-day period, and said the third is under house arrest.
MENA reported a conflicting account from the prosecutors’ investigation, which alleged the first two suspects had planned to bomb “a number of Western embassies.”
Two of the suspects had also traveled to Mali, where French troops battled Al-Qaeda-inspired militants, MENA reported.