Hamas denies training Egypt militant groups

Aftermath of car bomb attack that targeted Egypt's interior minister in Cairo (5 September 2013) Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis said it was behind the attack on Mohammed Ibrahim

The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas has denied training militants who claim to have been behind a string of bomb attacks in Egypt in the past two weeks.

Egyptian state television alleged on Thursday that Hamas' military wing had trained Sinai-based jihadists to carry out car bombings and make explosives.

State-run paper al-Ahram said Hamas had also been involved in an assassination attempt on Egypt's interior minister.

A Hamas spokesman dismissed the claims, insisting they had no basis in fact.

The authorities in Cairo have accused Hamas, which governs the neighbouring Gaza Strip, of interfering in Egyptian affairs since the military ousted President Mohammed Morsi in July.

The group was founded in the 1980s as an offshoot of Mr Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood.

Mr Morsi was remanded in custody for a further 30 days on Friday morning on suspicion of conspiring with Hamas over his escape from prison during the 2011 uprising that forced Hosni Mubarak from power.

The government has also extended for two months the state of emergency brought in last month after security forces stormed two pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo, triggering clashes that left hundreds dead.

'Documented'

On Thursday, a presenter on state TV said Egyptian "security authorities" had learned that Hamas' military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, "trained several people to undertake car-bombing operations and trained various others to make explosives".

"The military wing of the Hamas movement provided various Salafist jihadists and also other religious currents with 400 landmines. The security apparatus documented this and they will be arrested."

Al-Ahram meanwhile cited high-ranking security sources as saying Hamas had also been involved in the suspected suicide bomb attack that targeted Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim's convoy as it drove through Cairo on 5 September.

The hardline group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, which is based in the Sinai peninsula, said it was behind the assassination attempt and promised more attacks in revenge for the crackdown on Islamists.

Another group, Jund al-Islam, has meanwhile said it had carried out recent attacks in Sinai, including the twin suicide car bombings that targeted a military intelligence facility and an army checkpoint in the town of Rafah, not far from the border with Gaza.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum dismissed the claim it was involved.

"This is completely incorrect," he told the Reuters news agency, adding that this was an "attempt to demonise Hamas".

Another Hamas official said the reports were an attempt to justify the heightened "siege" of the Gaza Strip, which has seen the Egyptian authorities limit movement through the Rafah border crossing and destroy dozens of smuggling tunnels as part of a crackdown on Sinai militants.

Prices of consumer items in Gaza have risen dramatically, and cheap Egyptian fuel is in short supply. Israel also maintains a partial blockade.

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