August 27, 2005

Third land mine hits Egyptian police in Sinai search

ISMAILIA, Egypt (Reuters) - A land mine damaged an Egyptian
police vehicle in northern Sinai on Saturday, injuring a police
colonel and a civilian helping police track the group suspected
of seven bombings in the area, a security source said.

It was the third such blast in Sinai since police last week
launched a large-scale search operation for the group, believed
to be Sinai Bedouin under the influence of militant Islamists.

The security sources, who asked not to be named, identified
the officer as Lieutenant-Colonel Rushdi el-Sayed and the
tracker as Hassan Eid, a Sinai Bedouin.

The land mine exploded near Mount Halal, the area which has
been at the center of the search, the source added.

Mount Halal rises to 892 meters (2,900 feet) and lies about
60 km (35 miles) south of the Mediterranean town of el Arish,
the home area of several named bombing suspects.

Police say they were looking for the remaining members of
the group which killed at least 98 people in bombings in the
Red Sea resorts of Taba in October and Sharm el-Sheikh in July.

Land mine explosions in Sinai on Wednesday and Thursday
damaged three police vehicles, killed two police officers and
injured at least five policemen and a civilian.

Some 3,500 police with 20 armored vehicles are taking part
in the operation, security sources said last week.

Parts of Sinai still have landmines from wars between Egypt
and Israel but the number of explosions this week suggests the
fugitives laid them recently, a security source said.

Police held 34 local people for questioning on Friday but
it was not clear if they were part of the group, the source

Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif said this week the
government was looking at social factors in north Sinai that
might have contributed to inspiring people to become suicide
bombers in Sharm el-Sheikh.

"We need to see why this happened and how this happened,"
he told Tuesday's New York Times. "Is it just people
frustrated, or are they people with connections?"

He said the authorities were working with two theories
about who was behind the Sharm el-Sheikh bombings -- either
that security forces were so aggressive after the Taba blasts
that they prompted retaliation by locals or that the group had
international connections such as to al Qaeda.