Sinai Bedouin lift siege on peacekeeper camp

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By Reuters

CAIRO: Dozens of Bedouin who had encircled a camp belonging to a multinational peacekeeping force in the Sinai Peninsula lifted their siege on Friday following negotiations with the Egyptian army, security and Bedouin sources said.

The armed Bedouin had surrounded the camp belonging to the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) mission for eight days in a bid to pressure the Egyptian authorities to release tribesmen from jail.

The MFO mission was set up as part of the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel which returned the Sinai to Egyptian control.

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 Sinai.

There was no immediate comment from the MFO on Friday. In a statement on Thursday, the MFO had confirmed that Bedouin had been encircling the camp at El-Gorah since Friday, March 9 to press “their political demands against the central government”.

The protest had blocked access to the camp but reports that there had been a break-in were not true, the peacekeeping force said. The statement added that the Bedouin had no complaints against the MFO.

Egyptian security and tribal sources said that, under the deal to lift the siege, the Egyptian authorities had been given until April 16 to release the tribesmen who were jailed in connection with bombings in the Sinai Peninsula in 2004.

The MFO statement said that over the past year its sites “have seen multiple similar demonstrations which Sinai Bedouin believe will bring a more rapid response from Cairo authorities to their demands”.

The force includes military staff from 12 countries including the United States, Colombia, France and Uruguay, according to the MFO website.


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