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Egyptian police arrest weapons smuggler, tons of explosives in border town

Egyptian police arrest weapons smuggler, tons of explosives in border town

Egyptian police arrested early Wednesday a weapons smuggler and found in his house near the border with Israel more than half a ton of explosives and 1,200 kilograms (2,600 pounds) of potassium nitrate used in making bombs, a security official said.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media, said police arrested Mahdi Salim Abu Freig, 21, after raiding his house in el-Amir district in the Rafah border town at dawn.
The arrest comes during a period of heightened tension between Egypt and Israel, which claims that not enough is being done to stem the flow of weapons being smuggled across the border.
On Wednesday, Powerful U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter said during a visit to Jerusalem he was upset by the smuggling, and revived a proposal by Congress to cut aid if the issue was not addressed.
"Egypt can do a lot more," said Specter, a member of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee. "And if they don't, I think it would be appropriate to condition aid to them." Rep. Patrick Kennedy, a Democrat from Rhode Island traveling with Specter, said he agreed with the senator.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak meet Wednesday in Sharm el-Sheik to discuss, among other issues, the smuggling problem.
Police found 13 sacks, each contained 20 kilograms of explosives in underground caches and 60 sacks filled with about 1,200 kilograms of potassium nitrate.
Potassium nitrate is a transparent white crystalline compound, KNO3, used, among other things, in the manufacture of pyrotechnics, explosives, matches, rocket propellants and gunpowder.
The official said Abu Freig confessed that he had smuggled weapons and explosives to Gaza Strip through tunnels with the help of associates on the other side.
The discovery comes just one day after Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni infuriated Egyptian officials by accusing Egypt of doing a "terrible" job in securing the border with Gaza. Egypt's Foreign Ministry strongly rejected the criticism.
Smuggling across the border into Gaza or Israel has long provided a livelihood for some Bedouins in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. Weapons, cigarettes and foreigners seeking jobs in Israel are all taken secretly across the border.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, commenting late last month on Israeli and U.S. criticism of the tunnels, said Egypt was doing everything it could to search for tunnels used to smuggle weapons and contraband to militants in the Gaza Strip.
Israel, when it controlled the Philadelphi corridor between Gaza and Egypt, was also unable to prevent smuggling.


Updated : 2021-05-07 11:06 GMT+08:00