Cairo - Egyptian authorities have confiscated trucks carrying explosive warheads and a variety of small arms ammunition smuggled from Libya, the interior minister said on Wednesday.
A flood of weapons from its western neighbour has added to Egypt's security concerns as police have yet to fully return to their duties since last year's uprising. Smuggled weapons often fall into the hands of Islamist militants in the Sinai Peninsula, or pass via underground tunnels to the Gaza Strip, the site of fierce exchanges over the past week between Hamas militants and Israeli forces.
Egyptian Interior Minister Ahmed Gamal Eddin said at a news conference in Cairo that authorities spent weeks in the desert investigating the operation before they finally seized the pickup trucks.
They were carrying 108 warheads for Soviet-designed Grad rockets, near Marsa Matrouh, 430km northwest of Cairo on the Mediterranean coast. Suspected smugglers had fled the scene.
Also on Wednesday in Egypt's troubled northern Sinai region, troops from a multinational observer force fired on protesters demonstrating outside their base against the Israeli offensive in Gaza. Egyptian security officials said that one person was killed and another injured. The 12-nation observer force is part of the peace treaty signed by Egypt and Israel in 1979. American troops make up the largest contingent of the 1,650-strong force.
Libya's revolution last year unleashed a flood of small arms and heavy weapons, including shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles, into circulation through the vast Sahara desert of North Africa. Military experts say weapons that cross Libya's porous borders with neighboring Egypt and Sudan could be falling into the hands of Islamic militants.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants in Gaza have stockpiled Grad rockets and fired them at Israeli territory over the years, including in the latest round of fighting.