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Terrorists who bombed Egyptian resorts trained and financed by Hamas and Al Qaeda in Gaza

May 23, 2006


Tuesday, May 23, 2006 Last updated 2:48 p.m. PT

Egypt: Palestinians aided Sinai bombings


CAIRO, Egypt -- Palestinian extremists helped finance and train members of the militant Egyptian group that carried out deadly attacks at Sinai resorts, Egypt said Tuesday, making a direct connection for the first time between militants on either side of the Egypt-Gaza border.

The accusations could add to the troubles of the Islamic militant group Hamas, which leads the Palestinian government and is struggling with international isolation.

The Egyptian claim made no mention of either al-Qaida or Hamas and did not say whether the Palestinians who helped the Egyptian militants belonged to any organization.

Egypt's accusation also could fuel Israeli and Palestinian claims that al-Qaida militants have infiltrated the Palestinian territories.

Some analysts say the Egyptian group that carried out the bombings that killed 21 people last month at the Sinai resort of Dahab were al-Qaida-inspired. It took the name Monotheism and Jihad, which has been used by groups linked to al-Qaida.

The Interior Ministry said Palestinians helped the Egyptian group. It said three brothers who belong to the Egyptian group and helped plan the suicide attacks "made contacts with some fundamentalist Palestinian elements" before the attack and two of them - Ayman and Yousri Muhareb - went to the Palestinian territories.

There, Yousri received training in making explosives and use of weapons from a Palestinian identified as Maged al-Deri, the ministry said.

The ministry said Yousri Muhareb, who has been arrested by Egyptian security forces, confessed that he "received congratulations from these Palestinian elements after carrying out the (Dahab) attacks."

Another Palestinian, identified only as Abu Suleiman, gave Yousri $1,000 and a cell phone, then later entered Egypt and gave $500 to the third brother, Mounir Muhareb, the ministry said.

Mounir Muhareb was killed in clashes on May 1, the statement said. It did not give the whereabouts of Ayman Muhareb.

Egypt has said Monotheism and Jihad was behind two other attacks on Sinai resorts; an October 2004 bombing in Taba and Ras Shitan that killed 34 people and a July attack in Sharm el-Sheik that killed 64.

The purported leader of Monotheism and Jihad, Nasser Khamis el-Mallahi, was killed earlier this month in a gunbattle with security forces.

El-Mallahi also had tried to send the three suicide bombers who carried out the Dahab attacks to Gaza for training, the Interior Ministry said Tuesday.

A spokesman for the Hamas-led Palestinian government, Ghazi Hamad, said the government was "still waiting for more details" on the Egyptian accusations.

He said Hamas had condemned the Dahab bombings when they occurred.

Hamas is under intense international pressure to renounce violence and recognize Israel.

Egypt, which has a peace treaty with Israel, has joined that pressure, and worries that Hamas' new political power could fuel militancy or empower Islamists on Egyptian soil.

The Egyptian claim came on the heels of Jordan's announcement earlier this month that it arrested Hamas activists plotting attacks in the kingdom, an accusation Hamas has denied.

Cairo's claim "could be an attempt to embarrass Hamas or pressure it," said Amr el-Choubaki, an Egyptian expert on Islamic groups. He said he doubted Egypt would openly accuse Hamas, because Cairo wants to preserve its role as a mediator among Palestinian groups.

Hamas has always said it would only attack Israel. It has abided by a cease-fire for more than a year.

Palestinian political analyst Talal Okal said Egypt's claims support the theory that al-Qaida operatives have infiltrated Gaza and Sinai.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said al-Qaida was trying to recruit Palestinians, and Israel also has linked Palestinians with the terror network. Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh has denied al-Qaida militants have infiltrated Palestinian territories.

In the past, Egypt has spoken vaguely of ties between the Sinai bombings and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Fearful of hurting its tourism industry, Egypt has painstakingly tried to paint the attacks as the work of a local group and rule out an al-Qaida involvement.


AP correspondent Maggie Michael contributed to this story.

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