Friday, March 16, 2012

Egypt: Armed Egyptian Bedouins Blockade International Peacekeepers in Sinai

Source: Voice of America

Armed Egyptian Bedouins have surrounded an international peacekeepers' camp in the Sinai Peninsula to try to pressure Egyptian authorities into releasing fellow tribesmen from prison.

The Bedouin protesters have been blocking roads around the Multinational Force and Observers camp in northern Sinai since last Friday, preventing vehicles from entering or leaving the site. In a statement released Thursday, the MFO said all international peacekeepers at the camp were safe and were taking measures to secure their perimeter.

The MFO mission monitors Egypt's 1979 peace treaty with Israel and is comprised of security forces from 12 nations, including 80 Americans, 300 Colombians and 35 Uruguayans.

Egyptian security and tribal sources said Wednesday some armed demonstrators cut through the camp's perimeter fence and threatened to storm the facility. But, MFO Cairo representative Kathleen Riley told VOA that there has been no break-in at the camp. She did not say whether the fence had been cut. The Bedouin protesters have been demanding the release of jailed tribesmen including terror suspects.

The peacekeeping mission said the protesters' continuous blockade of the camp is “causing increasingly significant operational and logistical impacts” as time goes on. It said helicopters have been providing “necessary transportation” into and out of the camp.

The MFO said it has been communicating with Egyptian officials to try to restore the peacekeepers' freedom of movement as soon as possible.

Sinai Bedouins have long complained of neglect by the Cairo government. In recent months, they have blocked other roads and briefly taken tourists hostage to press their demands.