Armed Bedouin in Egypt’s Sinai said they would end on Friday an eight-day long siege of an international peacekeepers’ camp, giving authorities a month to release jailed tribesman in exchange.
Bedouin and security sources said the dozens of armed Bedouin who blockaded the camp in North Sinai reached an understanding with the ruling military to end the unprecedented siege.
They said the Bedouin gave authorities until April 16 to release imprisoned tribesmen, some of them jailed in terrorism cases. The military promised to form a committee to look into their demands, they said.
The heavily armed tribesmen had set up stone barricades around the camp and attempted to cut of its power, while preventing the peacekeepers from entering or leaving.
The peacekeeping mission, which has contingents from 12 countries including the United States, is tasked with monitoring a 1979 peace treaty with neighbouring Israel.
The siege, roughly 15 kilometres (10 miles) from the Gaza border, underlines Cairo’s diminishing authority over the Sinai, despite a military-led operation last year to root out radicals from the restive mountainous and desert peninsula.
Police prefer to negotiate with the better armed tribesman, rather than risk a deadly confrontation, officials said.
Sinai, home to some of the country’s most lucrative tourist resorts as well as a Bedouin population embittered by decades of neglect, witnessed an armed insurrection last year as the country rose up against Hosni Mubarak.
Since the president’s overthrow in February 2011, Bedouin militants have blown up a pipeline that supplies gas to Israel and Jordan 13 times, and Islamist Bedouin have attacked police stations.
Some Bedouin have also taken to briefly kidnapping foreign tourists and workers to press for the release of jailed clansmen.
The army’s campaign against the militants last year, which met with only limited success, marked the first time they had entered towns so close to the Gaza border since the signing of the treaty with Israel.
The treaty stipulated that Egyptian troops stay out of border areas but Israel reportedly gave its okay to the operation.