Gaza-bound Libyan missiles intercepted

Egyptian authorities confiscate two pickup trucks with some 60 pieces of antitank weaponry headed for Sinai

The Sinai Peninsula (photo credit: Michal Shmulovich/Times of Israel)
The Sinai Peninsula (photo credit: Michal Shmulovich/Times of Israel)

CAIRO — An Egyptian security official says authorities have 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 largely lawless Sinai Peninsula where weapons are regularly smuggled to Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip through underground tunnels.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

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 Palestinian Ma’an news agency reported.

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.

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

A security source told Ma’an the missiles were about to be taken by truck to the smuggling tunnels at the border with Gaza and brought into the Palestinian enclave.

The missiles are thought to have come in from Libya. Officials have feared, since the revolution in that country, that heavy arms could fall into the arms of Islamists and be smuggled into Sinai and Gaza.

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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