An Egyptian man claims to have found a shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile launcher lying in a heap of rubbish next to Cairo’s main international airport.
The man’s claim could not be verified but if the weapon is real, it would mark an alarming breach of security in a country that has seen two passengers planes explode in the last two years.
The find is potentially worrying for Britain, which closely monitors airport security across Egypt and is weighing whether to resume tourist flights to Sharm el-Sheikh after a Russian jet was blown up by an Islamic State (Isil) affiliate in 2015.
The discovery came as Isil released a new video threatening Egypt’s Christian population and describing them as the “favourite prey” of jihadists.
The Egyptian man, Ibrahim Yousry, said he found an SA-7 missile launcher on the side of the road around a mile north of Cairo International Airport as he headed to work.
The weapon has a maximum range of around 2.5 miles and so it could be used at that distance to strike a plane as it landed or took off.
Mr Yousry wrote on Facebook that he was at first afraid to report the launcher to police in case they thought that he had something to do with it. But he said he ultimately decided it was too dangerous to leave the weapon lying around.
“The airport is not far away and it could cause disasters if it was placed here for a reason,” he wrote. “The airplanes here are an easy target because they fly at very low altitude and this is the best position for this weapon to be used.”
The weapon did not appear to be loaded with a missile, he added.
He said he struggled to convince two policemen nearby to take him seriously but that they eventually took the launcher and carried it away.
Mr Yousry did not respond to an effort to contact him. His Facebook post from February 18 began to go viral in Egypt and he eventually deleted it and replaced it with a cryptic note suggesting he was concerned about angering Egypt’s authoritarian government.
“Fishing in troubled waters is not my style,” he wrote.
The Egyptian foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
James Bevan, executive director of Conflict Armament Research (CAR), examined photographs of the launcher at the request of The Telegraph.
Mr Bevan said it was impossible to tell if the weapon was real based on a social media photograph but that it looked like an SA-7b, a common portable anti-aircraft weapon.
A version of the SA-7 is manufactured in Egypt and many such weapons flooded out of neighbouring Libya after the fall of the Gaddafi regime in 2011.
CAR has found SA-7 components in abandoned Isil bases in Syria and Iraq, suggesting that the group has found a way to access parts of the weapons.
“If it’s real, it wouldn’t surprise me to find it there given the number of possible sources and the number of actors that potentially have access to a system like this,” Mr Bevan said.