Egypt’s state security agencies have arrested an Israeli intelligence officer suspected of collecting information about the revolution and the sectarian violence that rocked Egypt in May, the official MENA news agency reported on Sunday.
“The Supreme State Security prosecutor ordered the man’s arrest for 15 days pending investigations into alleged “spying on Egypt with the aim of damaging its economic and political interests,” MENA said.
Egyptian state television said the “Mossad officer,” an Israeli national, had arrived in Egypt shortly after the start of the January 25 uprising that toppled president Hosni Mubarak, seeking to “incite chaos and sectarian strife.”
Egypt’s intelligence services had suspected the man “who was posing as a foreign correspondent” covering anti-regime protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square of spying and monitored his movements and phone calls before his arrest, MENA said.
Security services the man who was staying in a hotel in downtown Cairo and seized his laptop and three mobile phones, according to MENA.
Preliminary investigation by Taher al-Khouli, a state security attorney, showed that the “Mossad officer” attempted to recruit a number of Egyptian citizens for espionage activities, security sources told Al Arabiya.
A number of other foreigners, including journalists, are also being investigated for suspected involvement in espionage activities against Egypt, the sources added.
Israel’s foreign ministry said it was unaware of any reports of Israeli citizens being detained in Egypt.
Israeli commentators said reports that an Israeli citizen had been arrested for spying for the Mossad in Cairo seemed strange, according to Agence-France Presse.
“I can’t imagine that there will be any Israeli reactions, but anyone who knows even a little bit about these things knows that you don’t have an Israeli with an Israeli passport sitting in a foreign capital collecting things,” said Channel 2 news analyst Ehud Yaari.
Last year, Egypt—which signed a 1979 peace treaty with Israel—said the confessions of an Egyptian accused of spying for Israel had led to three espionage cells being dismantled in Lebanon and Syria.
Earlier this month, Egypt expelled an Iranian diplomat on suspicion of spying for Tehran.
Egyptian authorities said the man, identified as Qasim al-Hosseini, who worked as Third Political Counselor in Iran Mission in Cairo used his work as a cover to gather information on Egypt and to capitalize on the security turmoil sparked by the 25 January Revolution in the country.
According to Egyptian authorities, the counselor had gotten close to a few revolutionary youths, but they did not disclose the nature of information he was able to glean.
(Mustapha Ajbaili, a senior editor at Al Arabiya English, can be reached at Mustapha.email@example.com)