JERUSALEM – Iranian agents bribed Egyptian soldiers and officers to turn a blind eye to the infiltration of members of the Hezbollah terrorist organization into the country, according to the findings of an Egyptian intelligence investigation.
The results of the probe, which made its way to WND yesterday, came as Egypt recently announced it arrested suspected Hezbollah infiltrators accused of plotting attacks against the country’s regime.
The Egyptian intelligence investigation discovered Hezbollah cells inside the country paid off members of Egypt’s border guard units, including officers, not to act against the cells. The Hezbollah cells claimed to the border guard officers they were in the country only to aid Hamas, which controls the neighboring Gaza Strip.
But Egypt accuses Hezbollah of plotting large-scale attacks aimed, among other things, at destabilizing the Western-backed Egyptian government.
Yesterday, Iran’s foreign minister accused Israel of sparking the fighting between Egypt and Hezbollah as a way of intervening in inter-Lebanese politics.
“Labels against … Hezbollah and [Secretary-General] Hassan Nasrallah are an old and frayed trick and will not achieve anything,” Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottak was quoted as telling the Iranian news agency Fars.
Mottaki claimed “hands from outside the region” were seeking to “create problems” for the Lebanese elections, which are scheduled to take place June 7.
“The Zionist regime will not succeed in this political plot,” Mottaki told Fars.
Last week, Egypt’s public prosecutor, Abdel-Magid Mohammed, announced the country had arrested 49 alleged Hezbollah agents on suspicion of planning attacks inside Egypt. The agents are suspected of establishing a vast terrorist network in Egypt focusing on targets inside the country as well as aiding Hamas in the neighboring Gaza Strip.
Yesterday, the Egyptian media reported police are tracking down 13 members of an alleged Hezbollah cell believed to be hiding out with local Bedouins in the Sinai peninsula.
A senior Egyptian security official, speaking from Cairo, told WND earlier this week his country has information Hezbollah cells – working with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards – are coordinating terrorist activities inside Egypt with al-Qaida elements known to be present in the Sinai.
The accusation that Iranian-backed agents were working with al-Qaida could not be immediately verified by Israeli security officials. If accurate, it would mark a major turning point for Hezbollah, which has openly clashed with al-Qaida over ideology. Hezbollah espouses a strict Shiite Islamic belief system, while al-Qaida are adherents to fundamentalist Sunni Muslim beliefs.
Al-Qaida has been fingered in a string of major, deadly suicide bombings inside Egypt the past few years mostly targeting hotels and other tourist sites. The Egyptian government has previously admitted it was likely al-Qaida was still operating in the Sinai.
The Egyptian security official speaking to WND said the Hezbollah-Iranian agents in Egypt were working with al-Qaida to plot attacks against tourist sites, particularly those known to be popular with Israelis.
According to separate informed security officials with direct knowledge of the situation, Hezbollah, working directly with Iran, began setting up cells inside Egypt at least two years ago. The cells consisted of well over 80 agents, said the sources.
The goals of the cells operating inside the country include plotting to destabilize the Egyptian regime to advance Iranian interests, planning attacks against tourist sites with Israeli casualties in mind, aiding Hamas in Gaza and establishing a base of Iranian operations along the strategic Suez Canal.
One of the goals of the cells’ establishment, the sources informed WND, was to have proxies in position in Egypt in case of an Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear sites.
The pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat reported Egypt nabbed the chief of the Hezbollah cell, identified as Sami Shehab. The newspaper claimed Shehab confessed his cell surveilled tourist sites in the Egyptian resort cities of Taba, Dahab and Sharm el-Sheikh, and tracked Israeli ships passing through the Suez Canal.
‘Hezbollah monkey shiek’
The accusations touched off a war of words between Egypt and Hezbollah.
In his first comments on the accusations, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak reportedly told Lebanon’s prime minister in a phone call Sunday “Egypt will not allow anyone to violate its borders or destabilize the country.”
Also on Sunday, a major Egyptian daily blasted Hezbollah’s Nasrallah as a “monkey sheik” who will “burn” if his group attempts to attack Egypt. The newspaper accused Nasrallah of working for Iran against Lebanese interests.
Members of Egypt’s parliament, meanwhile, demanded Nasrallah be placed on trial.
Nasrallah, for his part, admitted in a televised address last Friday his group sent agents to Egypt, but he disputed the number of agents and claimed they were only in Egypt to aid Hamas.
“We do not deny it and we do not apologize,” he said. He claimed there were “only” 10 Hezbollah operatives in Egypt, not 49, as Cairo had stated. Hezbollah was merely trying to provide logistical assistance to the Palestinians besieged in the Gaza Strip, Nasrallah said.