CAIRO: Egyptian security officials said a man they arrested at Cairo airport on Tuesday – believing him to be a senior al Qaeda leader – is an Egyptian militant wanted in his homeland not an al Qaeda operative.
“He is wanted for involvement with the Al Jihad (group). He is not Seif al Adel,” said a source at the National Security apparatus. Officials and state media earlier said the man was the senior Qaeda militant Seif al-Adel.
Mohamed Ibrahim Makkawi, born in 1954, was detained on return to Egypt from Pakistan, security sources said, but added that initial suspicions he was Seif al-Adel were incorrect.
The source said Makkawi had left for Afghanistan to join the war against Soviet troops in the 1980s, and later settled down in Pakistan.
State media had identified him as an al Qaeda leader, but Makkawi himself had told the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat in an interview last year that he had been mistakenly identified as the senior militant.
He told the newspaper, in the interview published in May 2011, that he had disagreed with al Qaeda and sought political asylum in Pakistan.
“Following the tragic events of 9/11, I was surprised to find that my name and history had been placed underneath the image of another Egyptian, under the false name ‘Seif al-Adel’ as part of a list of 22 of the most wanted terrorists issued by the FBI, even though I have no connection to al Qaeda or its operations,” he had said.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 1st, 2012.