NM National Guard forces help beat back gunmen in Egypt
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The growing violence in the Middle East directly engaged members of the New Mexico National Guard on Friday (Sept. 14), as a contingent of the state’s guard helped beat back armed protestors in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
Reports from the region say the gunmen attacked the headquarters of the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) and tried to break through the entrance of the building in the Sinai where New Mexico National Guard soldiers are serving alongside other US and coalition military troops.In a joint statement, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and New Mexico National Guard Brigadier General Andrew Salas said, “Early reports from the unit indicate that the attack was beaten back, and though a few coalition troops from other countries sustained injuries, we have been told that no US soldiers were injured.”
According to Haaretz, a newspaper in Israel, dozens of Beduoin militants attacked the MFO building in the early evening Friday:
[A]n angry mob broke down the wall of the North Camp base using jeeps and commercial vehicles, according to Egyptian media reports.
Eye-witnesses said that the militants managed to penetrate the fence of the base and set fire to a vehicle belonging to the peacekeeping forces, an observation tower at the entrance of the base, electronic equipment, communication devices and ammunition that were at the scene…
Dozens of gunmen still surround the base, located in the al Gura area of northern Sinai, and have blocked the roads leading to it, according to the latest reports. The Egyptian army has moved troops to the area to repel any attempt to take control of the base.
Haaretz reported that three MFO members have been wounded in the fighting. There are no reports yet of injuries sustained by the militants.
In their joint statement Gov. Martinez and Gen. Salas said, “Appropriate force protection measures have been initiated by the command. We will continue to monitor the situation in northern Egypt and will communicate with the families of our Soldiers about further developments as they become available to us.”
The joint statement did not report exactly how many New Mexico guardsmen are stationed at the MFO headquarters. Update: According to KRQE-TV, 47 New Mexico Guardsmen from the Springer-based 615th Combat Support Battalion deployed in July to the Sinai base. There they were reflagged as the 1st U.S. Army Support Battalion.
The German news agency DPA reported that MFO forces, backed by about 50 tanks and armored vehicles, regained control after the attack and that Egyptian forces were deployed in the area of Jura, east of Arish.
From the Egypt Independent:
Protesters had earlier set fire to a security tower belonging to the Multinational Force and Observers in North Sinai and raised a black flag with the inscription “No God but Allah,” perhaps to express rejection of an anti-Islam film produced in the US.
The incident was preceded with clashes between protesters and MFO operatives, leading to one injured man. Fire was exchanged between the two parties, while protesters demanded that the Force be expelled.
In the last year, Haaretz reports, the MFO in the Sinai has suffered from repeated attacks on its bases and forces, including stone throwing and the blocking of their envoys. Around 1,000 peacekeepers, under US command, are positioned in Sinai to monitor Egyptian-Israeli border under a 1979 peace treaty between the two countries. (Click here to read the entire story from Haaretz concerning the Sinai incident.)
In the past four days, violence has spread across the region with the US Embassy in Cairo coming under fire and in Benghazi, Libya, the US ambassador to Libya and three others were killed in an attack Tuesday.
With each passing day, angry mobs have formed from Morrocco to Yemen to Tunisia at diplomatic headquarters of US and other Western nations. Muslim protesters have even had demonstrations in London and on Saturday (Sept. 15), the violence reached Australia, where hundreds of demonstrators clashed Saturday with police outside the US Consulate in Sydney.