By Nadia Abou el-Magd
Friday, December 8, 2006
CAIRO, Dec. 7 -- Authorities expelled two Belgian and eight French suspected terrorists Thursday, but an American and another French citizen remained in Egyptian custody, officials said.
The 12, along with an unknown number of Egyptians and Arabs from other countries, were arrested late last month for allegedly belonging to an Islamic terror cell plotting attacks.
The two Belgian and eight French suspects left Cairo International Airport under tight security on a charter flight for Brussels, an airport official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the news media.
The chartered plane flew first to Luxor, in southern Egypt, where it picked up a group of tourists, and then headed to Belgium, the official said.
It was not immediately clear why the authorities chose to put the 10 suspects on a plane carrying tourists.
Authorities have not provided details about the American, the remaining French citizen, the Egyptians and other Arabs still in custody in Egypt and have not released their identities.
This week, the U.S. State Department criticized Egypt for refusing to grant U.S. officials timely access to the arrested American. Egyptian authorities told the United States that no access will be granted until the investigation is completed, a State Department spokesman said.
The interior minister said the suspects were allegedly living in Egypt under the guise of studying Arabic and had formed a militant cell that was plotting attacks.
Security officials said the suspects had a relationship with Omar Abdullah, also known as Omar Hamra, the leader of the Islamic militant group Tawhid and Jihad, who killed himself last month by detonating an explosives belt while trying to cross into Lebanon from Syria. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.