Egyptian authorities seized a large shipment of missiles and weapons smuggled from Libya on Thursday.
Authorities uncovered the munitions — including 40 surface-to-surface missiles, 17 rocket-propelled grenade launchers, mortar rounds, automatic rifles and around 10,000 artillery shells — in three vehicles near the Mediterranean resort city of Marsa Matrouh, some 430 kilometers (270 miles) northwest of Cairo, the official said.
Three Egyptian Bedouin smugglers were arrested, the official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media. Two of the men were from the Egyptian town of Rafah on the border with the Gaza Strip.
The official said the men claimed they were transporting the weapons to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula to use “against army and police forces securing the borders to create chaos before presidential elections.”
Egyptian security sources told the London newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat that Iran was supporting radical Islamic groups in the Sinai peninsula to open a new front against Israel.
The leak of weapons out of Libya since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi last year is a pressing issue for Israel and Egypt alike. Last month, Israeli security officials said they possessed evidence that rockets fired from Sinai and the Gaza Strip during March’s bombardment were smuggled out of Libya.