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 (MFO) — were briefly detained in Egypt’s Sinai region, 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,” a security source in North Sinai’s Security Directorate said.
Other security sources confirmed that account.
It was unclear how long the peacekeepers had been held, 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.
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 US, Colombia, France and Uruguay, the MFO Web site said.
Earlier on Monday, MENA said that Egyptian 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 spokesman as saying earlier in the day.