Last Updated: Sun Aug 12, 2012 07:03 am (KSA) 04:03 am (GMT)

U.S. and Egypt negotiate new security assistance after Sinai clashes: report

The Egyptian military has been bolstering its presence in the Sinai with tanks and helicopters after Sunday’s unprecedented ambush on a border guard outpost which left 16 Egyptian soldiers dead. (Reuters)
The Egyptian military has been bolstering its presence in the Sinai with tanks and helicopters after Sunday’s unprecedented ambush on a border guard outpost which left 16 Egyptian soldiers dead. (Reuters)

The United States and Egypt are trying to put together a new security assistance package to address the worsening situation on the Sinai Peninsula, The New York Times reported late Saturday.

The Egyptian military has been bolstering its presence in the Sinai with tanks and helicopters after Sunday’s unprecedented ambush on a border guard outpost near the borders of Gaza and Israel, which left 16 Egyptian soldiers dead.

The Islamic militants, who carried out the attack, are believed to be affiliated with the Army of Islam, a small radical Islamist group which Egypt has blamed for several attacks in past years.

Citing unnamed officials, the U.S. newspaper said the U.S. Department of Defense is discussing with Egyptians a series of options for sharing intelligence with Egypt’s military and police in Sinai.

This intelligence includes intercepts of cellphone or radio conversations of militants and overhead imagery provided by both piloted aircraft, drones, and satellites, the report said.

“We continue to discuss ways of increasing and improving the Egyptians’ situational awareness in the Sinai,” the paper quotes a Pentagon official as saying.

According to The Times, the talks are taking place through military and intelligence channels as well as with the government of President Mohamed Morsi.

Secretary of States Hillary Clinton, who was traveling in Africa last week, spoke by telephone with new Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Qandil to discuss assistance, the paper noted. The date of the conversation was not disclosed.

Egypt receives $1.5 billion a year in military assistance from the United States.

Armed men attack troops

Meanwhile Al Arabiya TV reported that at least four people had been killed as Egyptian security forces launched a crackdown on Islamists in Sinai.

Earlier on Sunday, a group of armed men opened fire on peacekeeping troops on the border with Israel, a security source in Sinai said.

“The attack happened in Um Shyhan area in the middle of Sinai but no one got injured,” the source said.

A group of armed men had earlier clashed with Egyptian security forces near the scene of the latest attack after they opened fire at a police checkpoint, the same security source said. No one was injured.

Police checkpoints have come under a series of similar attacks by armed assailants since last Wednesday.

Egypt sent hundreds of troops and armored vehicles into North Sinai on Thursday to tackle militants operating near the border in an offensive that commanders said had killed up to 20 people they deemed terrorists.

The Egyptian army captured six people it considered “terrorists” in Sinai on Friday and the security source said three of them were later released

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