The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Egypt eye on Pakistanis as gun battle rages
Fight with Bedouins hiding militants

Sharm el-Sheikh (Egypt), July 25: Pakistanis have come under the scanner after the blasts here just as in the London bombings earlier this month.

Egyptian police fought gun battles in desert mountains near the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh today in a hunt for militants who killed at least 64 people in a bomb attack on Saturday. The police were surrounding a group of Bedouins suspected of having links to the three blasts which tore through hotels and shopping areas.

A police source said 25 Bedouins had been arrested after an exchange of fire with the police in the hills inland from the hamlet of el-Ruwaisat, north of Sharm el-Sheikh. Security sources earlier said the Bedouins were believed to be protecting two Pakistanis wanted for questioning but authorities later played down that version.

At roadblocks in and near Sharm el-Sheikh, authorities distributed photographs of some 50 foreigners, including five Pakistanis, who the police said may be linked to the attacks. A security source later said the Pakistanis were wanted for questioning and were not the prime suspects.

Some of the 50 people wanted for questioning were “known international terrorists”, security sources said.

Police named Pakistanis Mohammad Anwar, 30, Rashid Ali, 26, Mohammad Akhtar, 30, Tasadduq Husseinm, 18 and Mohammad Arif, 36, but, sources said, it was unclear if they had been staying in the town.

Arab satellite channels said up to nine Pakistanis had been staying in hotels in Sharm el-Sheikh but disappeared after the bombings early on Saturday morning, leaving their passports at the reception. Al Jazeera said the suspects might have entered the country using forged Jordanian passports.

Islamic militants have launched attacks against Egypt’s $6-billion tourist industry, but the involvement of Pakistanis, if confirmed, would be unprecedented.

In the London bombings in July, three of the suspects were British Pakistanis, at least two of whom had visited Pakistan recently. The Pakistan government launched an operation against madarsas, some of which are suspected to be breeding grounds for militants in the aftermath.

In Islamabad, Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman said the Pakistanis reportedly being sought by Egyptian authorities were unlikely to have been involved in the bomb attacks. Muhammad Naeem Khan said a media report had created an impression the Pakistanis were prime suspects, but the Egyptian authorities had not passed on any such information to Pakistan’s embassy in Cairo.

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