< HOME  Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Blast Outside Multinational Air Base in Sinai

Someone has their heart set on destabilizing Egypt.
An explosion Wednesday rocked an area just outside a Sinai Peninsula base that houses a multinational peacekeeping force made up mostly of Canadian soldiers - two days after triple blasts hit a nearby Sinai tourist resort. Some people were injured, Egyptian police said.

It was not immediately clear if those wounded were soldiers attached to the force, or others. A spokesman for the Multinational Force and Observers in Cairo refused to immediately comment on the blast.

The force was set up as part of the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt in 1981 that led to Israel's withdrawal from the Sinai. It is partially paid for by the U.S. and has U.S. advisers, although its troops are drawn from several countries, including Canada, the United States and others.
Two men blew themselves up in Egypt's north Sinai on Wednesday in what appeared to be abortive attacks by a mysterious militant group on a multinational peace force and on the Egyptian police.

One bomber died near an airport used by the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO), which monitors the border with Israel, and another close to an Egyptian police vehicle. No one else was hurt, the Interior Ministry said.

Cabinet spokesman Magdy Rady said he thought the incidents could be linked to bombings which killed 18 people in the budget resort of Dahab on Monday -- the third attack in two years on Sinai resorts frequented by foreign tourists.

The state news agency MENA quoted informed security sources as saying all the attacks were related and the Dahab bombings could have been the work of three Sinai Bedouin who have been on the run in the mountainous region since last July.

"The sources said ... that the perpetrators of the Dahab bombings were from the fugitive remnants of the Sharm el-Sheikh bombings (in July 2005)," the agency said.

Security forces have been seeking three Sinai Bedouin from the group, named as Nasr Khamis el-Malahi, Eid Salama el-Tarawi and Mohamed Abdullah Abu Jarir, it said.

"The sources said the bombers were probably from among those three and from the terrorist cell to which they belong -- all of them Sinai Bedouin on the run in the mountains," it added. [sounds familiar]

The Sinai group has never issued a statement to explain its objectives. The main clue from the Egyptian government has been that the late founder of the group was a Palestinian who had adopted the views of militant Islamists. [Now, where did they get that information from?]

The group is not known to have any foreign connections, though analysts [Who?] assume it has ideological affinities with the al Qaeda group led by Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden.

Many members of the group come from around El Arish, the capital of North Sinai province and a town with a mixed population of settled Bedouin, people from the Nile valley and assimilated people of Palestinian origin.

* * *

The same group is thought to have attacked an MFO vehicle in Sinai in August last year, slightly injuring two Canadians.

A spokesman for the MFO, which supervises security aspects of the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, said the first bomber on Wednesday appeared to target two of its vehicles.

The second man blew himself up next to a police car outside a police station in Sheikh Zuwayed, near the northern coast town of El Arish. The car was empty and there were no other casualties, security sources said.

The office of the governor of Sharkia province in the east of the Nile Delta denied reports of a third incident in the town of Bilbeis. Police sources had said a group of gunmen ambushed police there, leading to an exchange of fire.

An Interior Ministry statement gave slightly different versions of the two explosions in north Sinai and said one was by a Bedouin on a bicycle carrying a bomb.

It said a police officer was leaving El Gorah airport, where the MFO has its main base, when he saw a man carrying a bomb. [What does a man carrying a bomb look like as opposed to a man carrying a bag, or a man carrying a box?] The bomb exploded as the officer's car passed, smashing the windshield but causing no casualties, it said.

When two police officers left the North Sinai police headquarters to investigate the first incident, the Bedouin on the bicycle tried to obstruct them with a bomb, it said.

"The bomb blew him up and he died and the explosion had no other effect," the statement added. Police sources had said that two policemen were injured in the first explosion.


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