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'Al Qaida chief' mistaken identity

An Egyptian named by the United States as one of al Qaida's top figures has been arrested in Cairo but he told reporters it is a case of mistaken identity.

Mohammed Ibrahim Makkawi was arrested on his arrival at Cairo airport from Pakistan via Dubai and taken for questioning.

Makkawi told reporters he was not the senior al Qaida leader known as Saif al-Adel and that he had nothing to do with the terror group since 1989. He said he travelled to Egypt using travel documents issued by the Egyptian Embassy in Islamabad.

The US has listed the name Mohammed Ibrahim Makkawi as the real name of Saif al-Adel, a pseudonym that means "sword of justice". But former militants who know both men have previously said they are two different people and the US identification is incorrect.

"I am not the wanted Saif al-Adel," he said. "What has been said about me is lies. I never took part in actions against people or installations. I decided to come to Egypt to live in peace and because I am certain of my innocence," he said. Makkawi is believed to be in his 50s.

Saif al-Adel, an Egyptian, has been indicted by the United States for an alleged role in the August 7, 1998 bombings of US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya that killed 224 people.

He is a veteran figure in al Qaida, believed to have been the head of its military committee.

Later US officials said they believed it was a case of mistaken identity.

The FBI said it was still sorting out details of the case.

"We are aware that an individual has been taken into custody and every effort is being made by the US government to verify the identity of the person in custody," said William Carter, a spokesman at FBI headquarters.


From Belfast Telegraph