Egyptian policeman shot dead in Sinai gun battle

Gunmen trying to steal telephone and power cables shot dead a police officer in a gun battle in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula yesterday, security sources said.
It was the second killing of a policeman near the Suez Canal in less than a month and could increase tension between authorities and bedouin tribesmen in the area.

The gunfight broke out after police patrolling the outskirts of the Suez Canal town of East Qantara spotted five men trying to load stolen cables on to a truck, the sources said.

The armed men opened fire, killing police officer Mohamed al-Said Mohamed. One of the gunmen, a 23-year-old Bedouin, was wounded and the others fled.

Relations between Bedouin and the police have long been strained, especially since the police detained thousands of young men several years ago when a series of bombings shook tourist resorts in south Sinai, Reuters reports.

Bedouin elders, who complain of neglect by Egypt’s central government, say tough economic times have led more of their kin to resort to smuggling and other criminal activities.

Last month, at the opposite end of the Suez Canal, gunmen ambushed and shot dead the head of criminal investigations for Suez and wounded two other people in an attack blamed on drug dealers.

Police shot dead a suspect in that killing last week in a mountainous area outside East Qantara, not far from where yesterdays shooting took place, security sources said.

Pic: Egyptian police