CAIRO: Armed Bedouin tribesmen blocked a main road to Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh on Friday to press the government to free jailed kinsmen, security sources and witnesses said.
Incidents of lawless behavior have increased since police deserted the streets at the height of the uprising that forced President Hosni Mubarak to step down on Feb. 11. There is still almost no effective policing in Sinai.
The latest incident could further dent tourism, a main source of income for Egypt’s economy. It began around noon when dozens of gunmen placed burning tyres and makeshift barricades in the middle of the road at Wadi Feiran near the Gulf of Suez.
Gunmen fired into the air from time to time as hundreds of cars heading to Sharm El-Sheikh or leaving the resort were backed up for miles. Many motorists were angry and afraid but witnesses said no one was hurt.
"Women and children are crying after our water and food supplies ran out," Mohammed Tolba told Reuters by telephone while trying to return from Sharm El-Sheikh to his hometown of Mansoura, north of Cairo.
Security sources said the army was negotiating with the gunmen to re-open the road, while directing motorists to turn back. They said the gunmen were trying to force the government to free relatives imprisoned during Mubarak’s rule.
Prime Minister Essam Sharaf visited Sinai recently and promised to look into local grievances, but Bedouins say none of the promises have been met.