Egypt car bomb- AP- Jan 1, 2011
Worshippers shout around an exploded car in front of a Coptic Christian church in the Egyptian city of Alexandria, Egypt, early Saturday Jan. 1, 2011. Photo by AP
Text size
related tags

Al-Qaida is trying to establish terror cells in the Gaza Strip, Egypt's interior minister said in an interview Tuesday, in which he also said that Egyptian security forces had arrested 19 suspected al-Qaida militants.

General Habib al-Adli told Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram that Al-Qaida militants were entering the strip through tunnels near the southern city of Rafah. Hamas, the Islamist group which rules Gaza, is trying to prevent the establishment of the cells, Adli said, adding that it was in Egypt's interest to destroy these tunnels.

The 19 militants arrested by Egypt were suspected of planning suicide bombings at holy sites throughout the coutnry, al-Adli said, including one who was suspected involvement in a deadly bombing of a church in Alexandria on New Year's Eve.

The church was hit by a car bomb, killing at least 17 people and wounding 43 more. According to reports, Egypt believes that "foreign hands" were behind the attack; Adli concluded after the recent arrests that the bombing was most likely carried out by the Army of Islam, a branch of Al-Qaida.

One of the suspects arrested said that he arrived in Gaza in 2008, where he was given instructions to photograph the church in Alexandria.

Adli said that the 19 suspects arrested held Tunisian and Libyan citizenship, and that many were in Egypt as a stopover before heading to other destinations, including Iraq.

Al-Qaida is using the internet to recruit new members throughout the Arab world, Adli said.