CAIRO -- Police have arrested an American, 11 Europeans, and several others from Arab countries for allegedly plotting terrorist attacks in Middle Eastern countries including Iraq, the Interior Ministry said yesterday.
The group was part of an Islamic militant terrorist cell that had adopted extremist ideas and was living in Egypt under the guise of pursuing Arabic and Islamic studies, the ministry said in a statement.
Along with the American, police arrested two Belgians, nine French, and several others from Egypt and other Arab countries including Tunisia and Syria, the statement said.
The ministry did not provide names or say how many Egyptians and Arabs were arrested.
"Investigations have confirmed that those elements are related to some terrorist organizations abroad," the ministry said. "They were seeking to recruit others, teach them destructive beliefs, urging them for jihad, traveling to Iraq to carry out operations via other countries in the region."
In Washington, the State Department confirmed that an American had been arrested in Egypt about a week ago but could not provide any details.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said American officials were "seeking consular access to this individual" but declined to give more information, citing US privacy laws.
A government official in Brussels also confirmed that the two Belgians were arrested and said they were Belgian citizens of Moroccan origin. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
"It seems they had sympathies with fundamentalist Islamist circles," the official said. "There is no evidence that they perpetrated any violent act, and we expect them to be expelled from Egypt soon."
A spokesman for France's Foreign Ministry said several French citizens had been arrested in Egypt, but said he could not immediately provide details.
Egyptian authorities made the arrests about a week ago, and some had been studying at Al-Azhar University, police officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
All of the arrested were in jail pending further investigation, the ministry said.