Egypt's president said on Sunday his security forces would quash Islamist groups threatening stability in Egypt and the region, highlighting worries about al Qaeda building up strength in places such as Yemen, Reuters reported.
President Hosni Mubarak also defended building a barrier on the Gaza border, saying it would stop militants crossing. The move has drawn criticism from inside Egypt and other Arabs who say Cairo is colluding with Israel to blockade the Palestinians.
Egyptian security have made a series of arrests in recent months of suspected members of outlawed Islamist groups, raising concerns about a resurgence of militancy in a country that fought an Islamist rebellion the 1990s.
"We live in a difficult region and a world fraught with tension ... witnessing an expansion of instability across the world from Afghanistan to Pakistan and in Iran and Iraq and Yemen and Somalia and Sudan," Mubarak said in a speech.
He said the security forces would "continue fiercely confronting the terrorism and extremism ... for the security of the nation and citizens."
The rise of al Qaeda-linked militants in countries like Yemen and Somalia has prompted analysts to shine a spotlight on Egypt, the home of al Qaeda's No. 2 Ayman Zawahri and other leading Islamist thinkers over the decades.
Mubarak, speaking live on television, said there was a "widening circle of Salafi ideology and groups and their false claims to declare people as infidels and to terrorize innocent people and disturb social stability of the nation."
He did not name any groups but one group associated with an interpretation of Salafi teaching and calling itself Takfir wa Hijra, kidnapped and killed the Egyptian minister of religious endowments in 1977. The leader was later hanged.
Salafi Muslims believe they must follow strictly the practices of Prophet Mohammad and his closest companions.
Osama bin Laden claimed responsibility for the December 25 failed bombing of a U.S.-bound plane in an audio tape Al Jazeera television said on Sunday was of the Al Qaeda leader.
Analysts said his message was aimed to show the group was still operational and to win Arab support.
On the Gaza barrier, Mubarak said: "We have started construction along our borders not to appease anyone but to protect our nation from terrorist plots like the ones that took place in Taba, Sharm el Sheikh, Dahab and Cairo."
Mubarak was referring to bombings in tourism centres, such as the deadly attacks on the resort of Sharm el Sheikh in 2006.
The president also said his government would not tolerate sectarian violence, after six Christians and a Muslim police officer were gunned down on January 6 -- Coptic Christmas eve -- in a drive-by shooting in the mainly Muslim country.
Mubarak said those with "foreign agendas" were seeking to encourage sectarian unrest but did not mention names.
Egyptian prosecutors charged 26 men in 2009 of links to Lebanon's Hezbollah and of planning attacks in Egypt.