Egyptian authorities detain bird

Citizen suspected it of carrying a spying device

A migrating stork is held in a police station after a citizen suspected it of being a spy and brought it to the authorities in the Qena governorate, 280 miles southeast of Cairo, Egypt. AP

By Tony G. Gabriel

Associated Press

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.

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.

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