Egypt: Militants targeted U.S., French embassies in Cairo

Egyptian soldiers stand guard in front of the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Egypt, on Sept. 12, 2012, as part of widespread anger across the Muslim world about a film ridiculing Islam's Prophet Muhammad.
AP Photo/Nasser Nasser

CAIRO Egyptian state prosecutors say three suspected al Qaeda-linked militants detained over the weekend were plotting to attack the U.S. and French embassies in Cairo using car bombs.

The prosecutors were quoted by the official MENA press agency on Wednesday.

Officials said when they announced the arrests Saturday that the men had been in contact with Dawood al-Assady, a leader of al Qaeda in southeast Asian countries, and that the group was planning suicide attacks on government buildings and a foreign embassy.

"The investigations revealed that the suspects were intending to carry out terrorist bomb operations inside Egypt via suicide operations, penetrating the security cordon in front of the American and French embassies with a car bomb," MENA said, citing a source in the state security prosecutor's office and as translated by Reuters.

The interior minister said authorities seized 22 pounds of ammonium nitrate, a key ingredient in homemade explosives. Security officials also discovered statements issued by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the group's arm in North Africa, on one of the men's computers with information on how to make bombs and rockets, and ways of collecting intelligence.

He said the suspects are also believed to have links with the so-called "Nasr City terror cell," which was broken up last year and its members arrested on accusations of plotting attacks against public figures in Egypt.

The interior minister denied that al Qaeda is active in Egypt, but said the three men were in contact with al Qaeda militants abroad.