CAIRO ø A massive supply of explosives stolen from Egyptian warehouses last week
could have found its way to either Al Qaida or Palestinian terrorists.
Egyptian security sources confirmed that a large amount of explosives
was stolen from a warehouse of an oil company in the Western Desert near the
Mediterranean coast. The sources said authorities have conducted an
intensive investigation and detained hundreds of employees and guards of the
government has not announced the theft.
The sources said authorities were concerned that the explosives were
stolen to fulfill an order by Islamic or Palestinian insurgents. They did
not rule out that some of the explosives could be headed for the Gaza Strip.
Another scenario was that the explosives would be used for a major Al
Qaida-inspired attack in either Egypt or another North African ally of the
United States. Over the last year, Egypt has arrested hundreds of Islamic
suspects connected to the Muslim Brotherhood or Al Qaida-inspired groups.
On Aug. 4, the opposition Egyptian Al Ahali daily quoted a security
source as saying that 1,062 pieces of explosives went missing from an
unidentified foreign oil exploration company in Marsa Matrouh northeast of
Cairo. The newspaper said the explosives could be detonated by remote
So far, 1,000 people, including guards and employees of the company as
well as local residents, were arrested, Al Ahali reported.
Later, security sources confirmed some details of the Al Ahali report.
But they said about half of the amount reported by Al Ahali was stolen. They
also said the explosives were owned by Al Salam Petrol Services in Marsa
Matrouh, about 500 kilometers northwest of Cairo.
About 100 pieces of explosives were found, the sources said. So far,
none of the thieves were captured, they said.
Egypt has been cited as a leading source of weapons and explosives to
the Palestinian insurgency in the Gaza Strip. Western diplomatic sources
said a large amount of Cobra rocket-propelled grenade launchers was stolen
from Egypt's state-owned defense industry and smuggled to the Gaza Strip.