US intelligence agencies were investigating reports that terrorist groups connected to al-Qaida played a major role in carrying out last week’s multi-staged terror attacks near Eilat which killed eight Israelis and wounded dozens more, the Washington Times reported on Monday.
According to the report, a US government assessment of the attacks came to the conclusion that the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) or the Gaza-based Army of Islam (Jaish al Islam), a Palestinian group sympathetic to al-Qaida, carried out the attacks which emanated from Egypt’s Sinai peninsula.
Israeli officials have blamed the PRC for the attacks and killed several of the Gaza-based Palestinian terror organization’s members in IAF air strikes, including the group’s secretary-general , Kamal al-Nayrab.
The PRC, who played a key role in the abduction of IDF soldier Gilad Schalit in June 2006, has denied all connection to the attacks.
According to the Washington Times report, an initial US intelligence assessment of the attacks identified a new group who may have been connected to the incident, al-Qaida in the Sinai Peninsula.
Egyptian security officials have acknowledged that new groups affiliated with al-Qaida have begun to gain a foothold in the Sinai desert. Egypt launched “Operation Eagle” earlier this month in hopes of eradicating the groups which have repeatedly blown up the natural gas pipeline in Sinai which delivers gas to both Jordan and Israel.
In the aftermath of the attacks, Defense Minister Ehud Barak complained that Egypt had lost control of the Sinai peninsula and terrorist organizations were operating there undeterred.
A US intelligence official stated that while the PRC may have been involved in the attacks, they were not the organizers of the operation.
“PRC was clearly involved, [but] they were not the brains or the brawn of the operation. They were the scouts,” the official said. “Because the PRC squawked after the operation, they became an immediate target. It is not an unjustifiable reaction.