THE seizure of illegal cigarettes was indirectly linked to an attempted al-Qa'ida attack on a container ship in the Suez Canal.
The Irish Independent can reveal that the seizure was the culmination of a major international spying operation sparked by a failed rocket attack on a freight ship in the Middle East just over three weeks ago.
A missile fired from a hand-held rocket launcher blew a small hole in a container on the Panama-flagged vessel Cosco Asia as it passed through the Suez Canal on August 31.
The huge illegal cigarette haul was discovered while the slightly damaged container was being inspected.
Paperwork showed that the shipment was en route from South East Asia and destined for Ireland.
Following consultation between Interpol and the Irish authorities, it was decided to allow the container to sail here after it was fitted with tracking devices and monitored by satellites for the rest of its journey.
Egyptian officials said the al-Qa'ida attack was intended to disrupt shipping through the vital global trade route.