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EGYPT: Police barracks in North Sinai town bordering Gaza come under rocket attack

February 7, 2011 |  3:06 am

Pg-30-Egypt-AFP-Get_273975tPolice barracks in Rafah, the town in North Sinai that borders the Gaza strip, came under attack early Monday when a group of unknown perpetrators fired rocket-propelled grenades at the building, Egyptian media reported.

According to Agence France-Presse, at  least one Egyptian police officer was injured. Meanwhile, a reporter in North Sinai for Egyptian state-run TV named the victim as Muhammad Ahmad Mahmud, 21, but didn't mention his profession. 

The attackers were deterred by tribesmen in the area who identified them as members of "extremist religious groups and foreign elements from the other side of the border," added the reporter, speaking on Egypt's Channel 1.

Sinai Bedouins' testy relations with Egyptian authorities have been heightened by days of nationwide political unrest. 

Bedouin groups in North Sinai often complain of discrimination and harassment from Egyptian authorities. The authorities have a long-running but strained relationship with the militant Islamist group Hamas, which is in charge of the adjacent Gaza Strip.

It was not immediately clear whether Monday's attack on the police barracks was connected to the popular uprising against the regime of President Hosni Mubarak. 

The incident came two days after a Coptic church in Rafah caught fire and saboteurs blew up a gas pipeline to Jordan in the same area. The explosion at the gas terminal forced Egyptian authorities to turn off gas supplies to a twin pipeline to Israel. Media reports, quoting security officials, say an armed Bedouin group had threatened to blow up the pipeline last year.

In December last year, Egypt began constructing a massive underground iron wall along its border with the Gaza strip, supposedly in a bid to halt smuggling through tunnels from the embattled enclave.

-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut

Photo: The border at Rafah between Egypt and the Gaza strip. Credit: Agence France-Presse