Egypt Says Engineer in its Nuke Agency Is an Israeli Spy

Authorities said Tuesday they have arrested an Egyptian engineer from the country's nuclear energy agency for spying for Israel.

Prosecutor-General Abdul-Maguid Mahmoud announced that two foreigners, one Japanese and one Irish, were wanted in connection with the case but remained at large.

Mahmoud identified the Egyptian engineer as Mohammed Gaber and said he was arrested Feb. 18 but that news of his detention was withheld pending the completion of the investigation. He said Gaber stole "important documents" from the Atomic Energy Agency and passed it on to agents of Israel's Mossad intelligence service.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Egypt has a small research atomic reactor. It has recently announced plans to develop a nuclear energy program more than 20 years after it abandoned the idea of building a reactor in the aftermath of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

Minister of Electricity and Energy Hassan Yunis said this year that Egypt could have an operational nuclear power plant within 10 years. The plan is to build a 1,000-megawatt nuclear power plant at Al-Dabaa on the Mediterranean coast.

News of Gaber's arrest followed the detention in January of Mohammed el-Attar, another Egyptian who also holds Canadian citizenship, on charges of spying for Israel. Three Israelis, who were charged alongside el-Attar, remain at large.

In 2002, an Egyptian court found Sherif al-Filali, an Egyptian engineer, guilty of spying on behalf of Israel, and sentenced him to 15 years in prison with hard labor.

Two years later, Egypt freed an Israeli Arab businessman convicted of spying in exchange for Israel's release of six Egyptian students. Azzam Azzam served eight years in an Egyptian prison before his release.