Egypt arrests, tortures thousands of Bedouins over bombings

Monday, December 6, 2004

CAIRO Egyptian authorities face Bedouin unrest after a massive crackdown against a suspected Islamic insurgency network in the Sinai Peninsula.

Egyptian sources said tribal leaders have been alarmed by the detention of thousands of Bedouins in wake of the Oct. 7 Islamic suicide bombings in Taba and Nueiba, in which 33 people were killed. About 5,000 residents of northern Sinai were said to have been arrested in connection with the bombings, which targeted tourist sites frequented by Israelis.

Many of the detainees were said to have been tortured in Egyptian prisons and denied access to their attorneys and families. They said that nobody has been formally charged, Middle East Newsline reported.

Egypt's Interior Ministry reported the arrest of nine major suspects, all but one of them Egyptian nationals. The exception was a Palestinian with family in the Gaza Strip and said to have been a member of Islamic Jihad.

The ministry said the Palestinian headed the Islamic insurgency cell. Several tribal leaders have warned that they would retaliate against police unless the torture ended and the Bedouins released. The sources said the families of some of the detainees were pressing the leaders to storm police stations.

Three Egyptian human rights organizations released a report that asserted that many of the arrests took place in the El Arish area along the Mediterranean coast. In late November, the organizations the Hisham Mubarak Law Center, the Egyptian Association Against Torture and Al Nadim Center for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence released a report that quoted detainees as saying that they were hung from the ceiling and subject to electric shocks.

Egyptian authorities have not responded directly to the report. But other Egyptian sources said about 800 people were detained.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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