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Originally published Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 7:30 PM

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Egyptian authorities detain suspected ‘spy’ bird

An Egyptian man found a suspicious bird among four others near his home and brought them all to a police station, fearing they might be spies. An electronic device attached to one of the animals turned out to be a wildlife tracker.

The Associated Press

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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, about 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, head of security in the region.

There, officers and the man puzzled over the electronic device attached to one suspected winged infiltrator. A veterinary committee called by concerned government officials determined Saturday that the device was neither a bomb nor a spying device.

Instead, panel members 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 after the July 3 ouster of President Mohammed Morsi, authorities and citizens remain highly suspicious of anything foreign. Conspiracy theories easily find their ways into cafe discussion — and the media.

Earlier, a security guard filed a police report after capturing a pigeon that 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 latest bird flap, even military officials had to deny the critter carried any spying devices. They spoke Saturday on condition of anonymity.

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.

One mystery 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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