Doubts over identity of al-Qaeda militant held in Cairo
Saif al-Adel is on the US most-wanted list with a $5m reward for his capture
29 February 2012 Last updated at 13:03
Doubts have emerged about the identity of an al-Qaeda militant who Egypt said had been arrested at Cairo airport.
State media said the senior al-Qaeda commander Saif al-Adel, whose real name the US has listed as Mohammed Ibrahim Makkawi, had flown in from Pakistan.
But a man identifying himself as Mohammed Ibrahim Makkawi told reporters that although he had once been an al-Qaeda member, he was not Saif al-Adel.
Saif al-Adel was once a key member of Osama Bin Laden’s inner circle.
The former Egyptian army colonel is wanted by the US in connection with the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, and is suspected of training some of the 11 September 2001 hijackers.
Saif al-Adel is on the FBI’s most-wanted list and the US has offered a $5m reward for information leading to his capture or death.
Security officials told the Egyptian state news agency Mena that Saif al-Adel was detained at Cairo International Airport as he arrived on Wednesday, after flying to Egypt from Pakistan via Dubai.
The officials said they had received information about his plans to return to Egypt and hand himself over the authorities.
All flights from Asia were monitored as he was expected to come from either Afghanistan or Pakistan, and eventually his name was spotted on the passenger list of an Emirates Airline flight, they added.
Mena said Saif al-Adel had been handed over to the Higher State Security Prosecution for interrogation. It did not say where was being held.
The BBC’s Jon Leyne in Cairo says the Americans – and it seems the Egyptian authorities – believe Saif al-Adel is the nom-de-guerre of a man whose real name is Mohammed Ibrahim Makkawi.
The man who was arrested in Cairo reportedly told journalists that he was called Mohammed Ibrahim Makkawi, but strongly denied he was Saif al-Adel.
Mr Makkawi is reportedly now a strident critic of al-Qaeda, though he may be wanted for alleged terrorist offences committed inside Egypt a number of years ago.
Our correspondent says that if the Egyptian authorities have indeed got the wrong man, it will be a big embarrassment, as state media have been trumpeting what they are declaring as a great success for the security services.