RAFAH, Egypt, (AP) – Bedouin leaders in northern Sinai demanded Thursday that Egyptian authorities stop repression of the nomadic tribes and release tribesmen detained for opposing the government. This followed a government demand to the leaders to turn over suspects.
Clashes between Bedouin tribesmen and Egyptian police have intensified recently in the desert peninsula.
Moussa el-Delhi, a key Bedouin leader, told a news conference Thursday that Bedouins want to the government to lift tight security measures in Sinai and launch an economic development program for the impoverished areas.
El-Delhi said Bedouins also want security officers accused of maltreatment and repression tried by an international tribunal.
On Sunday, Bedouin tribesmen attacked a humanitarian convoy bound for Gaza and tried to blow up a natural gas pipeline close to Egypt-Israeli border after a shootout with police.
Sinai’s impoverished Bedouins complain of mistreatment by the Egyptian government. Many make their living smuggling weapons, drugs and people into Israel and Gaza.
Egypt’s interior minister, Gen. Habib el-Adly, met Bedouin elders on Tuesday in a bid to smooth tensions after a surge in clashes between his security forces and Sinai tribesmen.
The state-owned Middle East News Agency said el-Adly gave a stern warning that Bedouins must comply with security measures or face tougher actions.
Bedouins’ relations with authorities soured after authorities rounded up hundreds of young Bedouins following bomb attacks at Sinai resorts five years ago.
Since then police and angry Bedouins have clashed several times, causing a number of dead and wounded.
In response to the attacks, officials have rounded up thousands of local Bedouins, a move that intensified their feelings of mistreatment.