Three militants with al-Qaida ties were arrested by Egyptian security forces Saturday for planning terrorist attacks in Egyptian cities and possibly against the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.
Egypt Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim, in a news conference on Saturday, said the suspects were "on the verge" of attacking an embassy when they were captured. He did not specify the embassy, but Egyptian officials have told American counterparts that the United States consulate was a target, a Western diplomat told the New York Times.
Ibrahim said when security forces raided the men's homes, they found 22 pounds of aluminum nitrate used to make explosives; computers with instructions for making bombs, model airplanes and rockets; and materials published by al-Qaida's North African affiliate.
The U.S. State Department would not comment on the allegations, with Jennifer Psaki, a department spokeswoman, saying the agency doesn't "discuss the specifics of our operations nor the exchanges we have with foreign officials."
The three men were in contact with a source in Pakistan, and one of the men received military training in Iran and Pakistan, said Ibrahim.
Egyptian authorities identified the men as Amr Abu al-Ela Aqida, Muhammad Hameida Saleh and Muhammad Bayouni. Investigators said the al-Qaida leader, Dawoud al-Asadi, told them to contact a terrorist cell in Cairo and militants in Sinai, Ibrahim said.
The suspects had been discussing whether to use a car bomb or to detonate explosives by remote control, Ibrahim said. Two of the suspects are being held for 15 days while the charges are being investigated, and the third is under house arrest.
Despite the arrests, Ibrahim denied al-Qaida is active in Egypt. However, Egyptians are worried about extremist groups coming in following the revolution in 2011, and last August, Islamic militants were blamed for the deaths of 16 Egyptian border guards killed in Sinai.
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