Dozens of Militants Attack Peacekeeper Headquarters in Sinai, Three Wounded

Dozens of armed militants break down the wall of the Multinational Force & Observers base, and set vehicles and tools alight; unclear whether attack linked to worldwide protests over anti-Islam film.

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Three members of the Multinational Force & Observers (MFO) in the Sinai Peninsula were wounded on Friday, when dozens of Bedouin militants attacked their headquarters in northern Sinai.

In the early evening, an angry mob broke down the wall of the North Camp base using jeeps and commercial vehicles, according to Egyptian media reports.

Eye-witnesses said that the militants managed to penetrate the fence of the base and set fire to a vehicle belonging to the peacekeeping forces, an observation tower at the entrance of the base, electronic equipment, communication devices and ammunition that were at the scene.

The MFO force inside the camp, the majority of whom are Colombian, fired back at the militants and an exchange of fire ensued. So far there have been no reports of wounded among the militants.

Dozens of gunmen still surround the base, located in the al Gura area of northern Sinai, and have blocked the roads leading to it, according to the latest reports. The Egyptian army has moved troops to the area to repel any attempt to take control of the base.

Soroka Medical Center, Be’er Sheva said that two of the wounded were being transferred to the hospital in southern Israel for treatment. The Israel Defense Forces did not confirm the report.

It was unclear whether the attacks were linked to the protests spreading across the Muslim world over a film deemed as insulting the Prophet Mohammed. Locals in the area said it was apparently a backlash to the film, and there were reports in the Egyptian media that the attack was caused by the anti-Islam film. It is thought, however, that Salafi militants may have taken advantage of a protest to attack the base.

One Egyptian security official denied the claim that the attack was related to the film.

"The attackers are unknown and the cause of the assault is not immediately clear," the official told dpa on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

In the last year, the Multinational Force & Observers (MFO) in the Sinai has suffered from repeated attacks on its bases and forces, including stone throwing and the blocking of their envoys. Around 1,000 peacekeepers, under U.S. command, are positioned in Sinai to monitor Egyptian-Israeli border under a 1979 peace treaty between the two countries.

Last month, Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi deposed both chief of staff Sami Enan and Defense Minister Gen. Hussein Tantawi following the attack at the Israeli border crossing at Kerem Shalom, in which 17 Egyptian policemen were killed.

After the attack, the Egyptian army carried out a wide campaign to eradicate terrorist organizations in the Sinai peninsula, although according to reports in Egypt, the campaign was stopped after talks between Cairo and local Bedouin leaders.

Following the unrest sweeping the Muslim world over the past four days, Morsi said in a televised speech on Friday morning that it is part of the responsibility of Muslims to protect diplomats and foreign embassies located in their countries.

Army trucks carrying Egyptian military tanks in El Arish, Egypt's northern Sinai Peninsula, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2012.Credit: AP



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