Cargo ships are seen going through the Suez Canal towards the Red Sea, in Ismailia, Egypt, on Nov. 24, 2008. For nearly 140 years, it has been a vital shortcut between East and West. ((Nasser Nasser/Associated Press))

Egypt's Interior Ministry says authorities have arrested 25 militants linked to al-Qaeda on suspicion of plotting attacks on oil pipelines and ships crossing the Suez Canal.

In a statement issued Thursday, the ministry says the new cell is led by a Palestinian and includes 24 Egyptians, mostly engineers and technicians.

They planned to use mobile phones to detonate explosives against ships crossing the canal, the statement said.

The group learned how to make car bombs through communicating with al-Qaeda militants on jihadi websites, according to the statement.

The detainees confessed to funding their activities through contributions from Islamic charities abroad and in one case robbed a jewelry store and killed its Coptic Christian owner.