Uruguay said Wednesday a contingent of its soldiers serving as peacekeepers in the Sinai have been trapped in their base by Bedouins demanding the release of four colleagues imprisoned in Egypt.
Foreign Minister Luis Almagro said about 35 Uruguayan soldiers in the multinational peacekeeping force had been blocked from leaving their base in the northern Sinai, which also has US and Colombian peacekeeping troops.
”The actual situation is that a Uruguayan contingent in the northern Sinai is (...) surrounded by Bedouins linked to some insurgent movements in the region, he said.
Defence Minister Eleuterio Fernandez Huidobro said negotiations are underway with the Bedouins to end the standoff. No weapons have been fired during the confrontation.
The international peacekeeping force maintains a vigil in the Sinai under authority of the 1978/79 Camp David agreements between Egypt and Israel.
Uruguay has been part of the mission since 1982. Its soldiers are assigned to two bases, according to Uruguayan army officials.
General Pedro Aguerre, commander-in-chief of the Uruguayan Army, said the soldiers have not been attacked but have been blocked.
Other Uruguayans already have been evacuated to the southern Sinai, leaving only 35 at the northern base, Aguerre said.
The Bedouins have no military structure as we know it, they are really nomads,” Aguerre said.
However according to Egyptian and Western intelligence, Bedouins who roam their homeland of Sinai are known to be involved in arms smuggling to the Gaza strip and helping to blow up the natural gas pipeline from Egypt to Israel. There is no political motivation for their actions other than mercenary.