Egypt Independent

Identity of Islamist militant arrested at Cairo airport in question

Egyptian security officials said a man they arrested at Cairo airport on Tuesday believing him to be a senior Al-Qaeda leader is an Egyptian Islamist wanted in his homeland not an Al-Qaeda operative, AFP reported.

"He is wanted for involvement with the Al-Jihad [group]. He is not Seif al-Adel," a source at the National Security apparatus told AFP. Officials and state media earlier said the man was the senior Qaeda militant Seif al-Adel.

The source said the man, Muhamed Ibrahim Makkawi, had left for Afghanistan to join the war against Soviet troops in the 1980s, and later settled down in neighboring Pakistan.

State media had identified him as an Al-Qaeda leader, but Makkawi himself had told the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat in an interview last year that he had been mistakenly identified as the senior militant.

He told the newspaper, in the interview published in May 2011, that he had disagreed with Al-Qaeda and sought political asylum in Pakistan.

"Following the tragic events of 9/11, I was surprised to find that my name and history had been placed underneath the image of another Egyptian, under the false name 'Seif al-Adel' as part of a list of 22 of the most wanted terrorists issued by the FBI, even though I have no connection to Al-Qaeda or its operations," he had said.

He added that he was wanted in Egypt for involvement in Al-Jihad, a onetime militant group that renounced violence in the late 1990s.

After the killing of Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in a US commando raid in Pakistan in May last year, reports surfaced that Seif al-Adel, identified as Makkawi, had taken over the jihadist network for a brief period.

But analysts say Makkawi was mistaken for another militant with a similar background.

The US accuses Saif al-Adel of establishing jihadist training camps in Sudan and Afghanistan, and also helping organize the bombing of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. The US had offered a US$5 million reward for information that would lead to his arrest.