Egypt: Bedouin sweeps follow Sinai unrest

Egyptian police detained at least 40 after thousands of angry Bedouins stormed government buildings in north Sinai Oct. 7 to protest police inaction after a shooting by a rival clan. The ruling National Democratic Party headquarters in the city of El-Arish was sacked and pictures of President Hosni Mubarak burned, prompting police to fire tear gas to break up the crowd. The city council building was also damaged by stone-throwing protesters, who burned tires and smashed shop windows throughout the city. Authorities said the detained were from both the Tarabin and Fawakhriya tribes. Witnesses said the violence began after the breaking of the Ramadan fast, when armed Tarabin tribesmen from central Sinai arrived in El-Arish in 15 trucks and began to shoot at members of the Fawakhriya tribe. Abdel Hamid Selmy of the Fawakhriya tribe, a member of the Egyptian parliament’s upper house, said the violence “is an expression of the frustration felt by Bedouins due to the constant neglect by authorities.” (AFP, Oct. 7)

In a development reminiscent of recent events in Burma, more than 20 independent and opposition newspapers in Egypt did not publish on Sunday Oct. 7 in protest at what they call government harassment of the press. Seven journalists have been sentenced to prison recently for defaming the president and misquoting a minister, and one editor is on trial for harming national security after his paper questioned President Mubarak’s health. The independent newspaper al-Masry al-Youm said it was also protesting against the journalists’ association, which it said had failed to deal with the crisis facing its members. Pro-government newspapers criticized the protest. One said the protest was a result of “pressures from an unknown power.” (BBC, Oct. 8)

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