Gunmen attack Sinai peacekeeping base in Egypt

Gunmen attacked an international peacekeeping base in Egypt's Sinai peninsula, witnesses said Friday.

The attackers stormed one side of the Multinational Force and Observers building in the Gora region, leading security forces to respond with gunfire, the official news agency reported. As the two sides traded gunfire, three people working at the base were injured, the agency said.

The news agency reported that before attacking, the gunmen removed barbed wire around the base. The attackers also seized weapons and walkie-talkies from the peacekeeping troops and set fire to an MFO vehicle.

Egyptian armed forces moved into the area to stop the gunmen from storming the rest of the base, the news agency said.  Its English website later ran a headline saying, "Calm returns to int'l forces camp vicinity in Sinai," but it was not immediately clear late Friday how the situation had been resolved.

Egyptian state media reported that the attackers were apparently angered by a film mocking the Islamic prophet Muhammad, which gave rise to protests across the Muslim world on Friday.

But the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that it was believed that "Salafi militants may have taken advantage of a protest to attack the base."

The Multinational Force and Observers is an independent organization charged with peacekeeping in the Sinai, an arrangement rooted in a decades-old peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. The multinational force oversees the implementation of parts of the treaty, operating checkpoints and monitoring the deployment of Egyptian border guards, according to its website.

Protests broke out this week after an online trailer for the film "Innocence of Muslims," dubbed in Arabic, was aired on an Egyptian religious TV channel. Outrage over the video, which depicts Muhammad as violent and perverse, triggered attacks against U.S. diplomatic missions in several cities in the Mideast and North Africa this week.

A Tuesday attack by militants on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killed four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. Several protesters were reported to have been killed Friday as police clashed with demonstrators in Tunisia, Yemen, Lebanon and Sudan.

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-- Reem Abdellatif in Cairo and Emily Alpert in Los Angeles

 
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