Egypt frees Bedouins held after 2004-06 bombings


Egyptian authorities released 35 Bedouins who were detained after bombings in Sinai resorts in 2004-2006, the latest move to ease tensions in the popular tourist area, a security source said.

The release was the fourth in two weeks following a meeting between Interior Minister Habib el-Adly and Bedouin elders. Adly promised to release only those with no security record or charges of crimes. So far, 64 Bedouins have been released, Reuters reports.

The Bedouins, members of nomadic Arab tribes of Sinai, were among thousands detained by police after the series of bombings at tourist resorts in south Sinai. Relations have grown more strained with sporadic clashes with security forces.

Authorities accuse the Bedouins of involvement in weapons and drug smuggling from Sinai to both Israel and the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, and are building barriers along the Gaza border to stop the smuggling into the Palestinian enclave.

More Bedouins will be released in other batches, but the source did not disclose how many, adding that those convicted of offences such as possession of weapons and smuggling would be put on trial.

The Bedouins complain of neglect by the government and say they do not see the benefits from booming tourism in Sinai. They say tough conditions have led some of their people to resort to smuggling and other activities the state considers criminal.

Among demands of the Bedouin elders is that the government should investigate several policemen they say were involved in the killing of three tribesmen in 2007.