Text size

Terrorists had planned to assassinate Israel's ambassador to Egypt and to bomb the embassy building in Cairo, according to a report Saturday in the daily Al-Masri Al-Youm. The report quoted Egyptian security sources as saying that three members of a terrorist cell had been apprehended and confessed to the plans during interrogation.

The three, who were arrested in July, told their interrogators that they had planned to carry out a series of attacks against Egyptian government sites, including police stations and government offices.

Their arrest followed a violent robbery at a jewelry store in the Zeitoun quarter of Cairo in May, which led to their arrest in July. The three said the robbery was carried out to finance their terrorist activities.

They newspaper reported they also said they targeted Christian-owned businesses to rob, and they quoted a fatwa given to them by a Muslim cleric. Four members of Egypt's Coptic minority were killed in the robbery, including the owner of the shop. The attack provoked the Coptic community, which took to the streets throughout the country in protest.

The Egyptian daily quoted statements it said were given by the three members of the cell to the security services, in which they said the planned to assassinate the Israeli ambassador and destroy the embassy building. The plans were supposedly formulated in 2007, and the three men had begun surveillance activities, following the ambassador and watching the building. The three said they were unable to act because of stringent security measures, especially surrounding the ambassador's residence in the Ma'adi quarter of Cairo, as well as at the embassy.

The three suspects said that targeting the embassy was a priority for them. The suspected terrorists also claimed to have been in touch with Al-Qaida operatives and said they had planned to join their ranks in Iraq after the attacks in Cairo.

According to the newspaper report, other members of the cell had managed to flee Egypt and had gone to Saudi Arabia months ago.

Egyptian legal sources expressed doubt about the authenticity of the suspects' admissions, and defense lawyers said the cell had not planned to carry out such ambitious attacks, and that their admissions of guilt were the result of torture.