Last Updated: Sun Oct 17, 2010 00:12 am (KSA) 21:12 pm (GMT)

Egypt starts security sweep after Aqaba attack

Jordanians inspect the scene after a Grad-type rocket smashed into a street in Aqaba
Jordanians inspect the scene after a Grad-type rocket smashed into a street in Aqaba

Egypt has launched a wide security sweep of Sinai after rockets said to be fired from the peninsula landed in Israel and Jordan killing one person, an Egyptian security official said on Tuesday.

A senior Jordanian official said earlier that his country had proof the deadly rocket that landed in the port town of Aqaba, killing a taxi driver and wounding five other people, had been fired from Sinai.

"Following the Jordanian comments, Egypt has launched a wide security sweep of the Sinai peninsula," the Egyptian official said on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

But he insisted "there are no organized groups operating in Sinai and security on the peninsula is extremely tight. Any suspicious activity would have been detected," he said.

The rocket that fell in a busy Aqaba street near a major hotel on Monday was one of several apparently fired at the nearby Israeli tourist resort of Eilat, in an attack condemned by Israel, Russia and the United States.

"We can now say without hesitation that the Grad rocket was launched from Sinai," said the official official close to the investigation of Monday's rocket attack, speaking on condition of anonymity.

 The fact that Aqaba was not the target and that the rocket fell there by mistake does not change the fact that it's still a terrorist act, which killed and wounded innocent people 
A senior Jordanian official

"We have strong suspicions about the identity of the group behind this attack," he added without elaborating.

At least five blasts were heard, with one rocket exploding in open ground outside Eilat, two crashing into the Red Sea and the rest hitting Jordan, Israeli police said.

"The fact that Aqaba was not the target and that the rocket fell there by mistake does not change the fact that it's still a terrorist act, which killed and wounded innocent people," the senior Jordanian official said.

"This is the second such incident in three months and Jordan will not tolerate that its territory becomes a target of rocket attacks," he added.

An Egyptian security official has denied the attack was launched from the Sinai peninsula, a mountainous desert region that flanks the Gulf of Aqaba.

"The rockets did not come from Sinai," which would need "a great deal of logistics and equipment, and that is impossible considering the heavy security presence in the Sinai Peninsula," the official told AFP.

"We have a heavy security presence in Sinai, particularly along the Egyptian Israeli border. No suspicious activity has been reported anywhere in Sinai."

On April 22, two military-grade rockets struck in and near Aqaba, one slamming into a warehouse and the other splashing into the Red Sea.

Aqaba and Eilat are the neighboring Red Sea ports of Jordan and Israel, who signed a peace agreement in October 1994 after decades of strained ties and conflict.

The two ports are nestled in the Gulf of Aqaba, a narrow stretch of water bordered on one side by Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and the other by Saudi Arabia.

In August 2005, three Katyusha rockets were fired in Aqaba, missing two U.S. warships docked in the port. One of the projectiles hit a warehouse, killing a Jordanian soldier, while another landed across the border in Israel.

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