French, US, Belgian amonge arrested foreigners Egypt says
A group of foreigners arrested in Egypt included French, US, Belgian, Syrian and Tunisian nationals with links to terror groups who were recruiting Islamists for "jihad" in Iraq, the authorities have said.
Advertisement"The security services have dismantled an organisation whose members follow jihadist ideas and includes Arab and foreign elements living in Egypt under the pretence of studying Islam and Arabic," an interior ministry statement said Monday.
"These individuals were found in possession of papers and documents pertaining to their organisation that confirm links to terror organisations outside" the country, it added. The young Islamic fundamentalists are believed to have been arrested almost two weeks ago in Cairo's Medinat Nasr neighbourhood.
They include nine French, two Belgian and an American national as well as Egyptians, Tunisians and Syrians, the ministry said.
"The investigation revealed that these people were seeking to recruit more elements, convert them to their destructive doctrine, incite them to jihad (holy war) and encourage them to travel to Iraq via third countries to carry out operations," the statement said. French diplomatic sources had confirmed the detention of 11 French Islamists last month in Cairo and Alexandria.
The 11, most of them from the Paris region, were the largest group of French Islamists to have been detained in Egypt. Four other French nationals were expelled in July 2005. Despite the accusations in the interior ministry statement, other security sources had said nine of the French Islamists were due to be flown back to France this week and were deemed "not to be a threat to national security".
Security sources speaking on condition of anonymity also confirmed that two Belgian nationals of Moroccan origin had been nabbed during the raid.
A US embassy spokesman refused to comment on the case of the American citizen allegedly detained as part of the sweep in Cairo's Islamist student circles. The Western nationals are mostly of African and North African origin and also include converts. The Egyptian interior ministry said it would continue its investigation.
Egypt is believed to be a key recruitment point for Islamic militants. Several terror suspects detained in Western and other countries have studied in Cairo or the Mediterranean city of Alexandria.