On Monday, Egyptian authorities foiled a car bomb plot in the city of Rafah, near Gaza. The exact target is unclear. Some press reports have suggested that the target was a Coptic church, while others have said that it was actually a nearby military base. One Sinai-based reporter observed that the suspects were probably not attempting to blow up the church, “they were just smuggling the explosives.”
According to an Egyptian military spokesman, “the armed forces managed to stop two cars, a Toyota Doble Cabina and a Daewoo Lanos with no plates, in an area between Rafah church and a military unit under construction.”
While one of the vehicles managed to get away, the other was seized. In the seized vehicle were “sacks of TNT, two automatic weapon, 50 rounds, five electric detonators and an RPG launcher,” according to Al Arabiya. A spokesman for the Egyptian Armed Forces released a photograph of the car and the weapons (see above).
Those behind the plot are currently unknown, though Al Arabiya quoted an Egyptian security source as saying that it was “probably radical Islamists whom security forces have been tracking for months.” According to the Associated Press, “[t]he military said it suspects the gunmen preparing the car bomb are from the Gaza Strip and entered Egypt illegally through underground tunnels.”
Following the seizure of the explosives and weapons, Egyptian authorities announced a security alert. A military source has told Ma’an News Agency that “intelligence services have received information in the last few hours about planned attacks by groups in the Sinai.”
Today’s raid comes a day after US Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers arrived in Egypt for a two-day visit, in which he is scheduled to hold meetings focusing on the Sinai.
In addition to today’s raid, in recent weeks, Egyptian authorities have seized a number of weapons believed to be destined for the Gaza Strip, including short-range rockets, and antiaircraft and anti-tank missiles.
On Sunday, the Egyptian Armed Forces denied reports that had suggested that they were halting their campaign against militants in the Sinai Peninsula.