Security forces in North Sinai have made a number of arrests of men allegedly involved in attacks on the the natural gas pipeline between Egypt and Israel.
The first arrests were made on Monday after a gunfight in which one person was killed, while the second arrests were made on Tuesday near a gas pumping station. In total, eight men have been identified as being involved in past and planned attacks on the pipeline.
The pipeline has been attacked four times over the past six months, with explosions cutting off gas exports to Israel and Jordan. Gas exports to Israel have not resumed since the latest explosion in July.
The arrests on Tuesday came after security guards at a gas pumping station reported unusual activity by four men nearby, according to the Dostor news website. The same source said army forces encircled and arrested the four men, who had machine guns and a remote-detonated explosive device.
According to security sources, another four men were arrested on Monday as part of a larger security crackdown by Egyptian police and armed forces in the North Sinai Governorate. The men arrested are said to have been part of a terrorist cell that carried out attacks on the gas pipeline and other targets in recent months.
The four men detained on Monday were among 11 arrested after a gunfight between Egyptian army units and gunmen, including six convicts and four Palestianians. One person was killed in the exchange of gunfire, and the military claims to have confiscated illegal weapons and bombs during the operation.
A security source, who requested anonymity, said the cell responsible for the pipeline attacks was discovered in the Deheisha neighborhood in Arish after troops surrounded a house containing five jihadist leaders, including a Palestinian member of the Islamic Jihad Movement from Gaza.
The source went on to say that one of the cell members, 36-year-old Salim Gomaa, a mechanical engineer from Suez City, was killed after he shot at the security forces. An automatic rifle was later found in his possession. Another cell member, 25-year-old Omar al-Mallah from Alexandria was shot in the foot.
“During the exchange of gunfire, the other cell members surrendered and were then transferred to the headquarters of the North Sinai Security Directorate,” said the source. “Three automatic rifles, four hand grenades, 11 magazines, 330 bullets, two laptops and a printer were confiscated in their home.”
According to the source, members of the cell include 24-year-old Yasser Attia, a Palestinian from Khan Younis and a member of the Islamic Jihad Movement in the Gaza Strip. Attia was found to have sneaked into Egypt through a tunnel and had previously been arrested in Egypt, but had escaped from prison after the revolution.
The cell members also include 31-year-old Mohamed Salah, a worker from Qalyubiya, and 23-year-old Hossam Abdel-Radi from Sohag, Upper Egypt.
Preliminary investigations with the suspects indicate a growing jihadist ideology in many governorates of Egypt besides Sinai, said the source, adding that the defendents were located in Sinai due to its proximity to Israel and the Gaza Strip and easy access to weapons.
Translated from the Arabic Edition