While Egypt has seen a number of homegrown militant Islamist groups emerge and dissipate over the past 20 years, none has had clear organizational links with al Qaeda.
But senior officials told CNN that al Qaeda cells have now surfaced in northern Sinai, which has seen acts of sabotage and clashes between rival Salafist groups this year. Among the incidents, a gas pipeline to Israel was blown up several times.
The focus of their concern is the coastal area between el-Arish, a resort town of about 80,000 people on the Mediterranean, and Rafah on the border with Gaza.
“Al Qaeda is present in Sinai mainly in the area of Sakaska close to Rafah,” a general in Egypt’s intelligence service told CNN Thursday. “They have been training there for month, but we have not identified their nationalities yet.”