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EGYPT: New confrontation with Sinai Bedouins

November 16, 2008 |  9:19 am

Atourist_in_sinai_2A new spate of violent standoffs between Egyptian police and Bedouins has rocked the Sinai Peninsula, leaving three Bedouins dead and 30 policemen wounded.

Violence escalated after a tribesman was killed in a shootout on Monday.

Though firefights are somewhat common in the peninsula, the killing provoked outrage. Bedouins seized a police station, temporarily held 25 policemen hostage and confiscated 72 automatic rifles and 20,000 bullets as well as walkie-talkies and night-vision goggles, according to press reports.

The rumblings of the disenchantment of Sinai tribes date to police crackdowns that began four years ago, leading to large waves of arrests, detentions without charges, gun battles and the use of illegal interrogation methods.

Tightened security followed two large-scale bombings that rocked the peninsula in 2004 and 2005. Since then, the police tactics in Sinai have been condemned by local and international human rights groups.

Bedouins have staged several demonstrations in the past to protest police treatment. Bedouins also have been complaining about the government’s inability to ease poverty and unemployment through economic development programs.

The independent daily Sawt al Umma published photos of three corpses with faces covered with blood being extracted from the sand. The paper said the bodies belonged to Bedouins who were killed and buried by the police. The police say the men opened fire on security forces after running a checkpoint.

A truce was reportedly reached over the weekend between the Bedouins and the authorities; however, the threat of more violence is likely. The Bedouins have vowed to "respond hard" if the policemen responsible for the killings and burials of the bodies were not tried, according to an Agence France-Presse report.      

— Noha El-Hennawy in Cairo

Photo: A tourist passing by a police truck in Sinai. Credit: Agence France-Press

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