CAIRO – In a case that ruffled feathers in Egypt, authorities have detained a migratory bird that a citizen suspected of being a spy.
A man in Egypt's Qena governorate, some 280 miles southeast of Cairo, found the suspicious bird among four others near his home and brought them to a police station Friday, said Mohammed Kamal, the head of the security in the region.
There, officers and the man puzzled over the electronic device attached to the suspected winged infiltrator. On Saturday, a veterinary committee called by concerned government officials determined the device was neither a bomb nor a spying device.
Instead, they discovered it was a wildlife tracker used by French scientists to follow the movement of migrating birds, said Ayman Abdallah, the head of Qena veterinary services. Abdallah said the device stopped working when the bird crossed the French border, absolving it of being an avian Mata Hari.
With turmoil gripping Egypt following the July 3 popularly backed military coup that overthrew the country's president, authorities and citizens remain highly suspicious of anything foreign. Conspiracy theories easily find their ways into cafe discussion -- as well as some media in the country.
Earlier this year, a security guard filed a police report after capturing a pigeon he said carried microfilm. A previous rumor in 2010 blamed a series of shark attacks along Egypt's Mediterranean coast on an Israeli plot. It wasn't.
In the bird's case, even military officials ultimately had to deny the bird carried any spying devices. They spoke Saturday on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to journalists.
Yet later, the state-run daily newspaper Al-Ahram quoted Kamal as saying the incident showed the patriotism of the man who captured the bird in the first place.
The bird remains caged for now, as Abdallah said authorities must receive permission from prosecutors to release the animal.
But one mystery still remains: Abdallah and others called the bird a swan. Photographs obtained by The Associated Press showed what appeared to be a stork locked behind bars in the police station.