Panafrican News Agency

Egypt deploys troop for Sinai raids against militants

Cairo, Egypt (PANA) - The Egyptian military Saturday moved into Rafah, on the Gaza border, in readiness for an operation against militants who attacked key gas pipelines and police stations recently.

Egyptian security officials said army tanks and more than 1,000 soldiers and policemen, deployed on Friday and Saturday, would try to restore order to a lawless section in the north of the Sinai peninsula.

The security officials added that the force is to move southwards to a mountainous region, where armed outlaws believed to be linked to Al-Qaeda were hiding.

Witnesses said several armoured vehicles moved into Rafah and tanks were stationed in El-Arish, 40 kilometres from the Gaza Strip.

The operation came two days after a group calling itself the "Al-Qaeda in Sinai" distributed flyers in Rafah, threatening more attacks on police and gas pipelines.

A senior Egyptian military official denied the militant group has a branch in Egypt but the cabinet has blamed its affiliates in the past for attacks in the country.

A 1979 peace agreement with neighbouring Israel limits the number of Egyptian soldiers allowed in the Sinai peninsula.

The Governor of North Sinai, Abdel-Wahab Mabrouk denied the increased armed forces would carry out raids.

Mabrouk said the increased forces are in Sinai for protection and to repel any further potential attacks.

Sinai, home to some of Egypt's most lucrative tourist resorts, also has a largely marginalised and poor Bedouin population with a history of tensions with the Cairo Government.

Bedouin militants were blamed for a series of massive explosions in Sinai tourist resorts between 2004 and 2006 that killed dozens of Egyptians and foreigners.

Some of the militants arrested after those attacks fled prisons during the January revolution that toppled long-time ruler Hosni Mubarak, when the police abandoned their posts.

Mubarak's trial for complicity in the killing of protesters during the 25 January revolution is to resume with his presence in court on Monday.

The trial of Mubarak's interior minister Habib Al-Adly and his assistants on the same charges was on Sunday adjourned to 5 September.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces in Egypt has been in charge of the country's affairs since the forced stepping down of Mubarak on 11 February, vowing to lead the nation to a democratically elected civilian administration before the end of the year.
-0- PANA MI/BOS 14Aug2011