According to Egypt’s Interior Ministry, the weapons & ammunition were likely earmarked for extremist Salafist groups operating in the Sinai & for Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza.
Ten crewmen of various nationalities were taken into custody.
By Daniel Siryoti, Dan Lavie, News Agencies & Israel Hayom Staff
Egyptian naval forces seized an Iranian ship carrying tens of thousands of weapons, likely earmarked for Palestinian terrorist groups and extremist Salafist groups operating in Sinai, as it entered Egyptian territorial waters in the Red Sea late on Wednesday, an Egyptian military spokesman said on Thursday.
The ship was found 12 nautical miles north of Ras Muhammad in the Sinai Peninsula, general staff spokesman Ahmed Mohamed Ali said.
Iranian cargo ships at sea. – Photo: AP
“Inside they found a number of weapons and quantities of ammunition of various types,” Ali said. “The boat belongs to a private maritime security company which serves to secure ships passing through highly dangerous areas, especially in light of the spread of piracy in the southern Red Sea area and off the Somali coast.”
Egypt’s Interior Ministry reported that 10 crewmen were taken into custody for questioning. According to the report, the crewmen are not Iranian citizens and hold various nationalities.
The Turkish Anatolia news agency reported that, according to security sources in Egypt, the ship was carrying some 62,000 weapons, including Kalashnikov rifles, sniper rifles, RPG launchers and a large amount of ammunition.
Reuters reported that according to Egyptian security sources, the crew consisted of at least seven men and the ship spent a week in international waters before entering Egyptian waters.
The vessel was escorted into the port of Safaga, 569 kilometers (356 miles) southeast of Cairo, where an investigation was under way to determine whether the weapons were legal, the sources said.
Meanwhile, a senior Egyptian security official said that authorities in Cairo were working to gather intelligence about extremist jihadist groups in Sinai following information that they intended to attack Israeli tourists vacationing along the Red Sea, or to carry out attacks against Israeli targets from Sinai. Egyptian security forces have recently been hunting members of sleeper terrorist cells in northern Sinai.
Following a directive from Egypt’s security forces, Hamas initiated a wave of arrests against Salafist terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip responsible for the rocket fire at Israel in recent days.
A senior Egyptian official said, “The Egyptian government is a signatory on the cease-fire agreement in Gaza, and Hamas has been called upon to contain the situation and control its territory. We won’t allow for the erosion of agreements that Egypt has signed and of which it is a guarantor.”
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said there is broad cooperation between his group and Egypt’s security forces, dismissing reports that Hamas is endangering Egypt’s national security.
Mashaal’s comments in a conference Thursday in Cairo follow unconfirmed Egyptian media reports linking Hamas to the increased lawlessness in the Sinai Peninsula.
The reports accused Hamas of orchestrating one of the bloodiest attacks against Egypt’s army in decades. In August 2012, 16 soldiers were killed along the Gaza-Egypt border. Hamas has strongly denied that it was involved.
Mashaal called the accusations “defamations,” and said it was Hamas’s duty to protect Egypt’s security.
Hamas leaders were in Cairo this week to meet with security, intelligence and military officials.
View original Israel Hayom publication at: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=8419