Bedouins in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula briefly held 10 Fijian members of a multinational peacekeeping force on Monday and demanded Egypt free fellow tribesmen from prison, Egyptian security sources said.
The peacekeepers — from the Multinational Force and Observers — were briefly detained in Egypt's Sinai, where the security situation has deteriorated since a popular uprising ousted the country's president more than a year ago, throwing the security apparatus into disarray.
"Bedouins told the MFO members who were driving by that the main road was closed. They led them to an unknown area and refused to let them leave," said one security source in North Sinai's Security Directorate. Other security sources confirmed that account.
It was unclear precisely how long the peacekeepers had been held, however, and why the tribesmen had released them.
The MFO could not be immediately reached for comment, while state TV and the state news agency MENA denied that the incident had taken place.
MENA cited its own security source as saying that the troops had in fact got lost but had later found their way home without any problems.
In March, armed Bedouin surrounded a camp belonging to the MFO mission for eight days before lifting the siege. That incident was also a bid to pressure Egyptian authorities into releasing 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. The force includes military staff from 12 countries including the United States, Colombia, France and Uruguay, the MFO website said.
Earlier on Monday, MENA said that Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr had met with MFO Director-General David Satterfield to discuss the role of the organization in overseeing implementation of the peace treaty.
"The foreign minister assured Egypt's support for the multinational peacekeeping force and its provision of a secure environment for it, [and of] Egypt's appreciation for the big role that the force's members are performing," MENA cited a ministry spokesperson as saying earlier in the day.Tags: Multinational Force and Observers, Security sources, security directorate