US embassy cable - 05CAIRO1978

INTERNAL SECURITY IN SINAI--AN UPDATE

Identifier: 05CAIRO1978
Wikileaks: View 05CAIRO1978 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Cairo
Created: 2005-03-14 14:46:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PTER PINS PGOV PHUM ASEC KCRM EG
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 001978 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DUBAI FOR CG 
NSC STAFF FOR POUNDS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/14/2015 
TAGS: PTER, PINS, PGOV, PHUM, ASEC, KCRM, EG 
SUBJECT: INTERNAL SECURITY IN SINAI--AN UPDATE 
 
REF: A. CAIRO 707 (NOTAL) 
     B. 04 CAIRO 9275 (NOTAL) 
     C. 04 CAIRO 8590 (NOTAL) 
     D. 04 CAIRO 7851 (NOTAL) 
 
Classified by DCM Gordon Gray for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
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Summary 
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1.  (C)  The effects of the October 7, 2004 terror bombings 
continue to ripple through the Sinai Peninsula, even as 
tourism rebounds.  In January the security services and 
tribal leaders formally agreed to work together against 
criminal activities by tribesmen.  In early February, a 
combined force of security personnel and irregular Bedouin 
militia/guides cornered and killed three suspects linked to 
the bombing near the town of Ras Sidr.  These killings appear 
to have accounted for fugitive suspects that the GOE publicly 
identified in October 2004 as responsible for the terror 
attacks, but the issue of mass detentions of others connected 
to the investigation continues to raise questions.  At the 
same time, local citizens and human rights groups have kept 
up their criticism of the GOE's alleged mass detentions of 
terror suspects, including through vocal and disruptive 
protests in the northern Sinai capital of Al-Arish.  Although 
charges of human rights abuses, as reported in a February 
report by Human Rights Watch, do nothing to boost the GOE's 
human rights credentials, the apparent development of closer 
security cooperation between the GOE and the Sinai Bedouin 
tribes may have significant security-related benefits in the 
future.  End summary. 
 
--------------------------------------------- 
New Security Pact Between Bedouins and GOE... 
--------------------------------------------- 
 
2.  (SBU)  In January, Sinai Bedouin tribal elders negotiated 
and signed a "Pledge Document" which committed the Bedouin 
leadership to report to the authorities any criminal 
activities by tribal members.  Previously, the Bedouin dealt 
internally with law-breaking, a process that was 
unsatisfactory to the GOE.  Some Bedouin have voiced 
discomfort with the new agreement, arguing that it undoes a 
centuries-old system of tribal justice and threatens to spark 
additional conflict.  In addition, the GOE has sought to play 
a larger role in the selection of tribal leaders, replacing 
the traditional tribal consensus system with a process that 
"recommends" GOE approved leaders. 
 
------------------------------------------- 
and the Security Forces Kill Three Suspects 
------------------------------------------- 
 
3.  (SBU)  Local press and wire services indicate that 
security forces, assisted by armed Bedouin guides, in early 
February killed three terror bombing suspects (Hammad Gaman 
Gomah Tarabeen, Mohammad Abdel Rahman Badawi, and an 
unidentified third man) in gun battles near Ras Sidr on 
Sinai's western coast, after the trio's suspicious activity 
attracted the attention of a camel herder who notified 
police.  One policeman died and several were wounded in the 
fight with the suspects.  A February 5 account asserted that 
600 security personnel continued to pursue an additional 
three suspects, and that 100 armed Bedouin were assisting 
police.  Another wire service report on February 6 said that 
Sheikh Attiyah al-Kibriti led the Bedouin forces working with 
the GOE.  (Note:  In late October 2004, just weeks after the 
terror bombings, the Interior Ministry (ref D) identified the 
suspects in the bombings as nine Sinai residents, including 
two men who had died in the Taba blast, five who were 
arrested in October, and two who were still at large.  Since 
the press reports in early February about the killing of the 
additional three suspects, the GOE has made no public 
announcements about the status of the investigation.  End 
note.) 
 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
Bedouin Women and Human Rights Watch Slam the GOE 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
4.  (SBU)  In a February 22 press conference in Cairo, Human 
Rights Watch (HRW) unveiled its latest report on Egypt, "Mass 
Arrests and Torture in Sinai."  The report largely reiterated 
the assertions of Egyptian human rights groups (reported ref 
C) first made in November 2004.  The major contribution of 
the HRW report appears to be consolidating the multiple 
strands of allegations into a coherent English-language 
account of the detentions, supplemented by interviews with 
approximately 20 recently released detainees and two alleged 
victims of torture.  The report's release generated modest 
coverage by local opposition papers and the international 
wire services, but it does not seem to have sparked any major 
new interest in the detentions. 
 
5.  (SBU)  Subsequent to the release of the report, female 
relatives of men alleged to be detained by the GOE have 
conducted protests in Al-Arish.  In late February, scores of 
angry women, clad in the enveloping black abayas favored by 
Bedouin women, stormed into a local council meeting in 
Al-Arish attended by North Sinai Governor Ahmad Abdel Hamid 
to demand official action regarding their detained men-folk. 
At the Governor's direction, the police did not break up the 
demonstration.  The women presented a list of 90 names of 
detainees to the Governor, and he agreed to attend to the 
issue.  (Note:  Ref A described a protest that ended in 
teargas and arrests in Al-Arish in January.  End note.)  On 
March 4, Al-Jazeera reported that the GOE had recently 
released 11 detainees, in addition to 90 who were released in 
January.  Most recently, on March 11 after Friday prayers in 
Al-Arish, according to wire service reports, 400 protestors, 
including 200 women, clashed with police who arrested five 
protestors.  The latest protests including charges that the 
police were using torture against detainees. 
 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 
Comment:  Redrawing the Internal Security Map in Sinai 
--------------------------------------------- --------- 
 
6.  (C)  The total number of detainees linked to the 
investigation remains uncertain due to the GOE's customary 
lack of tranparency in such matters.  Our best assessment is 
that the total number detained is significantly less than the 
several thousand claimed by HRW and others, but we also note 
that past GOE practice in comparable security cases has been 
to question and detain large numbers of people believed to 
have any knowledge of particular security cases.  The 
persistence of the women in Al-Arish as they demand the 
release of their relatives provides a useful indicator of the 
scale of the detentions. 
 
7.  (C)  The Bedouin have historically had an uneasy 
relationship with whatever central government has held 
sovereignty over the Sinai.  Since the return of the 
peninsula from Israel to the GOE in 1979, many Bedouin, as 
well as independent analysts, have argued that GOE 
development policies have disadvantaged the Bedouin 
inhabitants by favoring Egyptian investors and immigrants 
from "the Wadi," i.e., the Nile Valley.  This situation led 
to considerable resentment of Cairo by some Bedouin, and is 
used by some analysts to explain Bedouin involvement in crime 
(including smuggling of narcotics, stolen vehicles, weapons, 
and people).  In December, a senior police official in Sinai 
investigating Bedouin involvement in a multiple homicide and 
robbery commented to a visiting USG delegation that the only 
good Bedouin was a dead Bedouin.  This offhand remark did 
not, of course, reflect official policy, but it does suggest 
the depth of the tensions between the Sinai Bedouin and 
Egyptian officialdom.  Similarly, Bedouin in Sinai, 
especially those residing in the trash-strewn shanty 
settlements outside towns like Nuweiba and Dahab, where 
economic life revolves around upscale tourist resorts, have 
expressed their deep resentment of GOE development. 
 
8.  (C)  As noted in ref B, the October 7 terror bombings in 
Taba and Ras Shaitan seem to have energized the GOE to 
re-examine the internal security situation in Sinai.  The 
wide-ranging detentions, as well as the security pact and the 
tactical cooperation between tribal guides and the security 
forces, are evidence of a new attention by the GOE to 
ensuring the security of the peninsula.  Whether or not these 
tough measures succeed in the long run will be determined by 
a host of related issues, including the degree to which the 
GOE is able to share the benefits of the bonanza of tourism 
development that continues to thrive in Sinai the Bedouin 
population.  End comment. 
 
 
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WELCH 

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