EL-ARISH, (AP) – Egyptian police are tracking down 13 members of an alleged Hezbollah cell believed to be hiding out with the Bedouins in the rugged Sinai peninsula, a security official said Monday.
The men are thought to be 10 Lebanese and three Sudanese — part of a group of 49 members of an alleged Hezbollah cell that the government announced is plotting to attack Egyptian institutions and Israeli tourists.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media, said the men had taken shelter in the central Sinai town of al-Nakhl.
Authorities fear the suspects may either try to escape north into Gaza some 120 miles (200 kilometers) away through the many secret tunnels or head south to the tourist resorts on the coast.
There is little security presence in the vast mountainous interior of the Sinai where some Bedouin make their living in the drug trade.
Most residents of the impoverished peninsula do not benefit from the tourist resorts, such as Sharm el-Sheik, along the southern coast
On Sunday, Egyptian Attorney General Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud added espionage to the charges against 49 alleged Hezbollah agents, in addition to plotting to destabilize the country.
Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has rejected the accusations but confirmed over the weekend that it had sent a member to Egypt — a rare acknowledgment that the Lebanese militant group was operating in another Arab country.
In another sign of the tension in the area, an Egyptian border guard was shot dead while patrolling the frontier with Israel early on Monday.
Authorities said the incident is under investigation, with immediate suspicion falling on the Bedouin smugglers that move drugs and humans into Israel across the porous desert border.