Egyptian security forces find weapons cache near el-Arish

Missiles likely intended for smuggling into the Gaza Strip, says defense official

Egyptian security authorities on Friday found a cache of missiles in the Sinai Peninsula, east of the city of el-Arish.

An official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the cache included rockets and mortars. He added that the missiles were about to be taken by truck to the smuggling tunnels at the border with Gaza and brought into the Palestinian enclave.

On Tuesday, a Cairo court ruled that the smuggling tunnels linking the Gaza Strip to Egypt are a security threat and must be destroyed. The ruling came in response to a petition brought by a group of lawyers and activists in the wake of a cross-border attack that killed 16 Egyptian border guards in August.

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On Wednesday, Egyptian security forces confiscated two pickup trucks carrying 60 antitank missiles smuggled across the border from Libya.

The official says two truck drivers were arrested and the weapons seized just south of Cairo on Wednesday morning.

The two were heading from Marsa Matrouh, 430 kilometers (270 miles) northwest of the capital on the Mediterranean Coast, to the Peninsula.

Lawlessness has been rife in Sinai since the ouster of longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. Weapons have flowed from Libya into the peninsula, where Islamist militants have grown in strength.

In early January, Egyptian security forces said they discovered and captured a store of American-made missiles headed for the Gaza Strip.

The missiles, discovered in the northern Sinai peninsula, included anti-tank and anti-aircraft projectiles, as well as rockets capable of reaching a number of ranges.

In that case too, the forces captured the missiles in a secret depot south of el-Arish, after receiving intelligence information about the smuggling attempt.

In December of 2012, Egyptian military forces in the Sinai intercepted a shipment of 17 short-range missiles en route to the Gaza Strip. The French-made rockets, with a range of three kilometers, were confiscated 22 kilometers south of el-Arish, an Egyptian military spokesman said.

One month earlier, Egyptian authorities intercepted two arms shipments from Libya bound for the Gaza Strip. One included 185 crates full of arms and ammunition — including bullets, anti-tank and anti-aircraft munitions, rocket-propelled grenades, landmines and explosives.

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