debkafile Exclusive: The Gaza Strip: A new haven for scores of al Qaeda fugitives on the run from Egyptian crackdown in Sinai
The four men who turned themselves into Egyptian police Sunday, May 14, in the northern Sinai town of El Arish were not the key al Qaeda figures hunted in connection with al Qaeda’s attacks last month.
The men, named as Naif Ibrahim Saleh Ameira, Abdel Gadr Suweilim Suleiman, Ismail Salama Ouda Hussein and Hatem Musellem Rashid al-Atrash, surrendered after Egyptian security forces killed Nasser Malakhi (see picture)in the same town last Tuesday, May 9.
Malakhi was described as ringleader of the al Qaeda network, which April 24 and 26 struck Dahab, the UFO base near el Arish and Bilbith near Ismailiyeh on the Suez.
According to debkafile‘s counter-terror sources, the Egyptians have not yet bagged the top Qaeda leaders: Tirawi Younes Abu Garib, a 25-year old driver from el Arish, Osama Zahlawi, 24, from Nahal, Sinai, Ibrahim Mohsein, from Tel El Kabir on the western Suez bank near Ismailiya, and a group of Egyptian and Palestinian farmers from the Suez region employed in al Qaeda operations.
A large number of the wanted cells fled across the Egyptian border into the Gaza Strip, shepherded by the gun- and drug-running gangs working with al Qaeda and Palestinian terrorists in the border region.
The internal balance among the diverse Palestinian terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip is expected to bear the mark of the heavy al Qaeda influx of the last two weeks, and still further raise security tensions on the Gaza-Israeli border and around its crossings.
The scores of al Qaeda fugitives, estimated by intelligence watchers to have infiltrated the territory, quickly made it clear they were after action. Tuesday, May 9, they used a Hamas Internet site to announce the formation of the “Islamic Army of al Quds” for attacks against Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
debkafile‘s counter-terror sources note that Egypt – like Israel – prefers to play down the al Qaeda presence within by avoiding mentioning the jihadists by name. They use euphemisms liked armed extremists, militants or the World Islamic Organization. Official Egyptian denial of a foreign element in the terrorist campaign plaguing the country for three years stretches to attributing the attacks to Tawhid wal Jihad, a local band of Bedouin and radical Muslims.
However, in the meantime, our counter-terror sources report, Tawhid wal Jihad has been taken over by Abu Musab al Zarqawi, al Qaeda’s Iraq commander.