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Armed Bedouins enter Sinai peace force camp

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Thu, 15 Mar 2012 11:47 GMT
Author: Reuters
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CAIRO, March 15 (Reuters) - Armed Bedouins have entered a military base used by international peacekeepers in Egypt's Sinai region to pressure local authorities to release fellow tribesmen from jail, security and tribal sources said on Thursday.

Sinai Bedouin complain of unfair treatment and government neglect and press their demands by blocking roads and occasionally taking tourists hostage, releasing them soon afterwards following negotiations with the authorities.

Such incidents have become more frequent since the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak last year loosened the grip of state security and deepened lawlessness in the isolated Sinai.

Wednesday's entry of the camp was the first time Bedouin have blocked off a base used by the multinational force that oversees observance of Egypt's peace treaty with Israel by patrolling their heavily guarded Sinai frontier.

The protest began a week ago as the Bedouin cut roads to the base with burning tyres and escalated when they cut through a perimeter fence and dozens entered the camp.

"They are ready to storm the buildings at any time," said a fellow Bedouin in contact with the men staging the protest.

A security official said the Bedouin had the camp surrounded on four sides to prevent any vehicles or staff at the base from entering or leaving.

No confrontation was reported for now but the security official and a Bedouin source, who both spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Bedouin have threatened to escalate the situation if their demands were not met.

The Multinational Force and Observers director in Cairo, Kathleen Riley, refused to confirm the incident, saying the force "does not comment about its operations".

The force includes military staff from 12 countries including the United States, Colombia, France and Uruguay, the MFO website said. It was not clear how many troops were stationed in the Sinai camp or their nationalities.

Other Bedouin cut a main road in Sinai that leads to a commercial crossing between Egypt and Israel this week. (Reporting by Yusri Mohamed and Yasmine Saleh; Edited by Richard Meares)

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