Egypt: Egyptian security forces arrested on Sunday the leader of an al Qaeda-inspired group in the Sinai Peninsula that was behind attacks on police and on a gas pipeline that transports fuel to Israel and Jordan, a senior security official said.
The official said Mohammed Eid Muslih Hamad, also known as "El Tihi", was arrested without resistance in the northern Sinai town of el-Arish.
El Tihi was also being investigated in connection to an August series of attacks into southern Israel, the official said on condition of anonymity in line with his orders.
Six Egyptian soldiers were killed as Israeli troops pursued the militants after one of the attacks, sparking an escalation of tensions which a month later resulted in protesters breaking into Israel's embassy in Cairo.
The official said an army unit surprised el-Hiti at his hideout in a seaside vacation house at dawn, forcing him to surrender without firing.
The arrest of el Tihi took place one day after police arrested Abdel Halim Hassan Heneidi, another militant leader, also in el Arish.
The group, taking advantage of the power vacuum in the mountainous peninsula after the toppling of Hosni Mubarak's regime in February, launched a campaign under the name of al Qaeda in Sinai calling for the establishment of an Islamic emirate.
In the most brazen assault, hundreds of masked militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons stormed a police station in el Arish in late July, killing five people and wounding 28. The attack prompted the government to deploy thousands of troops into Sinai to contain the situation.
There are no known groups in Egypt with direct organizational links to al Qaeda, although several senior members of the group, including current chief Ayman al-Zawahri, are Egyptian.
First Published: Sunday, November 13, 2011, 18:49