Violence erupts in northern Sinai

Other News Materials 7 October 2007 13:42 (UTC +04:00)

( AP ) - Egyptian police fired tear gas Saturday to disperse several thousand protesters who burned tires and blocked roads in anger over an attack by Bedouins in the Sinai peninsula, officials said

The trouble started Saturday evening when scores of masked Bedouins randomly opened fire in the town of El-Arish in northern Sinai, injuring three people and damaging shops and cars, residents and officials said.

Three more people, including two policemen, were injured when residents demanding better protection from the Bedouins clashed with police, according to one witness, Hassan Abdullah.

It was unclear why the Bedouins opened fire. But a security official in Cairo said it was because of a "local dispute over money." The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the incident with media.

After the Bedouin rampage, thousands of people poured into the streets to demand the government provide better security. As the protest grew, officials sent hundreds of police reinforcements to the town near Egypt's border with Israel.

Tensions between townspeople and Bedouin are not uncommon in Sinai. Many Bedouin complain they receive little benefit from a tourist boom in the peninsula. Instead they eke out a living smuggling goods and people across the Israeli border and growing cannabis in isolated desert valleys.

Bedouins linked to religious extremists were blamed for attacks on tourist sites starting in October 2004 that have killed 125 people, mostly foreigners. Thousands were jailed in subsequent crackdowns.