CAIRO: An Egyptian man held in the Philippines for allegedly plotting a Christmas bomb attack is an envoy of Al-Azhar who was arrested by mistake, the institution’s grand imam said.
Al-Azhar’s Sheikh Mohamed Sayyed Tantawi told Egypt’s official Mena news agency that he was personally following up the case of Sheikh Mohamed Al-Sayyid Ahmed Mousa who was arrested by police in the Philippines last week.
Tantawi aide Sheikh Abdel Fattah Allam said he expected Sheikh Mousa to be released on bail “in the next few hours .
“The envoys of Al-Azhar abroad are chosen according to strict criteria to encourage moderation in Islam and the renunciation of violence and terrorism, he added.
The Religious Affairs Ministry issued a statement saying that Sheikh Mousa was being well treated but that there were contacts at the highest level between the two governments to try to secure his release.
“Sheikh Mousa is a man of faith who represents a prestigious religious institution, the ministry said.
“There are 29 Al-Azhar envoys in the Philippines teaching Arabic and religion in accordance with an agreement between Cairo and Manila, he added.
Mousa, identified by Philippine police as Mohamed Sayed, was arrested during a raid on a flat in the Majad Islamic School in the southern city of Cotabato.
An explosive device fashioned from a 60-millimeter mortar round and ball bearings attached to a timing device were recovered from his room.
Philippine police said the Egyptian was captured after surveillance and that intelligence reports suggested he planned to detonate the bomb at an undisclosed location in the city on Christmas Day.
Among the items they said were recovered from his room was a booklet on the organization of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a rebel group that has been fighting to set up an Islamic state in the southern Philippines.
Tantawi said he hoped Mousa would be released “within the coming couple of days and that the arrest was a mistake. -AFP