A joint US–Egyptian military delegation arrived in Sharm El-Sheikh Monday. German news agency DPA reported the delegation was there to inspect the security situation in Sinai, something the army denied.
The delegation included the head of the United States military cooperation office in Egypt as well as Egyptian military communications supervisor Major General Osama Abdel Aziz.
Military Official Spokesperson Colonel Ahmed Aly denied the American officers were in Sinai to inspect the security situation, which he described as a purely Egyptian matter.
Rather, said Aly, the delegation was there to check on the US personnel that serve in the Multinational Force and Observer, the international peacekeeping force overseeing the terms of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel to which the US contributes 700 personnel.
Egyptian military forces have been deployed across Sinai, with tanks, armoured personnel carriers and soldiers spread across the peninsula’s main and international roads.
Military police units have taken over securing the governorate building in North Sinai. Other military units are securing police stations, roads, the court, tourism and traffic police stations as well as the Administrative Oversight Authority.
Roadblocks cover the routes into the governorate, where everyone entering has their ID cards checked.
The security directorate in South Sinai meanwhile has raised alert levels and placed patrols at the entrances and exits of the governorate in case militants from North Sinai try to escape southwards.
South Sinai Governor Major General Khaled Fouda said security in the governorate is alert and tribal elders met the commander of the Third Field Army last week to discuss their demands. At the meeting, Fouda said the tribal elders agreed to help protect Sinai.
The security intensification is a result of demonstrations in North Sinai by policemen who retreated from their posts in protest of the killing of three of their colleagues at the hands of unidentified gunmen on Saturday.
The protesting policemen surrounded the North Sinai government building and were joined by revolutionary groups and North Sinai residents. The protesters demanded the removal of the chief of police, the governor, his deputy, and for the new governor to be elected.
They also briefly took over the governorate building but gave it over to military police, saying they were just making a point. Several groups discussed the formation of a 25-member council of local revolutionaries to run the governorate until a new governor is elected.
Minister of Interior Ahmed Gamal El-Din travelled to North Sinai and removed Major General Ahmed Bakr on Sunday, replacing him with his deputy, Major General Sameeh Beshady. The minister was meant to hold a popular conference with the protesters but abruptly left for Cairo, which instigated a new wave of protests, this time calling for his removal.
Military Official Spokesperson Colonel Ahmed Aly denied reports Sunday that the Sinai was declared a military zone, calling the reports baseless rumours.
Additional reporting by Nasser El-Azzazy