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Egypt detains former Israeli military officer as alleged spy

By Journalist Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, For CNN
  • Ilan Grapel was apprehended and questioned Sunday
  • He will be held for 15 days, Egyptian officials say
  • Grapel is a law student at Emory University in Atlanta

Cairo (CNN) -- Egyptian authorities have questioned a former Israel Defense Forces paratrooper who holds dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship and ordered him held for 15 days on suspicion of spying for Israel, a spokesman for Egypt's general prosecutor said.

The spokesman, Adel Saeed, identified the suspect as Ilan Grapel, who participated in the Lebanon war of 2006 and was relieved of field combat duties after being injured. Grapel was apprehended in a five-star hotel in downtown Cairo, Saeed said Sunday.

Investigators had been following his activities for months, the spokesman said.

The Israeli government allegedly sent Grapel to Egypt after the January 25 revolution to take advantage of the security vacuum that then existed by recruiting others to provide the Israelis with military and political information, Saeed said.

The revolution forced former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak from power; he stepped down February 11.

The suspect, who was present at most of the protests, tried to incite sectarian violence between Muslims and Christians and encouraged demonstrators to engage in violence against the military, Saeed said.

His goal was to foment chaos between the Egyptian people and the military, Saeed said.

The supreme state security prosecutor has questioned Grapel, and the general prosecutor will announce the results of the investigation when it is complete, Saeed said.

Egyptian newspapers carried the story on their front pages Monday alongside photos of Grapel republished from his Facebook account. "Egypt arrests Israeli Intelligence Officer, a big blow to the Israeli Mossad Intelligence Agency," one headline said.

Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1979.

Grapel, a law student at Emory University in Atlanta, is slated to graduate next year. In a statement, the school said it learned of his detention Monday.

The U.S. Embassy in Cairo is providing Grapel "with the same assistance it provides to all U.S. citizens arrested overseas," the U.S. State Department said Sunday in a statement.

It said that consular officers had visited him and that the embassy would contact local Egyptian authorities to ensure that he is "being treated fairly under local law."

CNN's Kevin Flower contributed to this report.