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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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May 15th, 2013
07:46 PM ET

State news: Plot against U.S. embassy in Egypt foiled

The Egyptian prosecutor's office says evidence shows three suspects linked to al Qaeda targeted the U.S. and French embassies in Cairo, as well as an Egyptian army facility in the Sinai Peninsula, according to state news.

CNN has not been able to independently confirm the reported targets.

Over the weekend, Egypt's interior minister announced the arrests of three militants who allegedly were plotting to attack a Western embassy and other targets. Both the U.S. embassy and a spokesman for Egypt's interior ministry have refused to comment on specific targets.

"Al Qaeda and groups like it haven't traditionally been operating in Cairo very much," said CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen.

"There was an attack on a central market in Cairo in 2005 frequented by Western tourists, but in general al Qaeda and groups like it haven't been attacking in Cairo itself, you know, in any kind of consistent way over the last decade."

In the mid 1990s, these groups lost support after attempts at insurgencies against the government left more than 1,000 dead, and the Luxor massacre in 1997, where 56 tourists were stabbed to death, eroded any popular appeal these groups had, said Bergen.

"These groups actually did a peace agreement with the Mubarak government," said Bergen. "So there's a soured history for [al Qaeda] not being very consistent in Cairo."

That said, al Qaeda is led by an Egyptian, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and many of its leaders are Egyptian.

"In all these countries that have experienced the Arab Spring, there's a lot of chaos," said Bergen. "They were run by oppressive governments that had a handle on these groups."

"It is comforting that this was discovered in time," said Bergen. "But I don't think it's going to be the last time that we see the U.S. embassy targeted in a major Arab capital like this."

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