Al-Ahram Weekly Online   10 - 16 January 2008
Issue No. 879
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875


Bedouins attack

DOZENS of Bedouins armed with rocket-propelled grenades ambushed Egyptian guards at a commercial crossing with Israel on Tuesday, injuring two people, according to press agencies. One of the wounded was a police officer. The other was a civilian working at the checkpoint.

More than 50 Bedouins blocked commercial traffic for several hours Tuesday at the Aouja crossing, about 60 kilometres south of the main Egypt-Gaza crossing of Rafah.

Hundreds of Egyptian security forces and anti-riot police recaptured the checkpoint by mid-afternoon and were searching the area for the attackers who escaped before the soldiers' arrival.

The Bedouins also reportedly set fire to a police car and shot at the tires of trucks laden with goods, briefly preventing them from crossing to Israel.

The attack escalated from a protest march opposing the arrest two days ago of two Bedouins from the Tarabin tribe. The men were apparently arrested during a tribal dispute over a woman's honour.

Relations between police and the Bedouins have been strained since 2004 when police detained thousands of local people for possible links to a group which had bombed tourist resorts.

A Bedouin teenager was shot and wounded during an anti-government protest near the border in November. Thousands of Egyptian riot police clashed with Bedouins protesting against the government in July. A teenaged boy was killed and witnesses said several civilians were shot and wounded.

Dress ethics

A POLICE major was sentenced to jail for five years and two policemen for a year each for forcing a detainee to wear a woman's nightgown and walk on a major street, a judicial source said on Sunday.

The Alexandria Criminal Court on Saturday sentenced Yusri Ahmed Eissa to five years and two of his deputies to a year each for "degrading" local car park attendant Ibrahim Abbas in April 2007, the source said.

The judicial official said the detainee was working at the car park when he asked the major to move his car to allow others to enter the lot. The officer considered the request to be an insult and arrested him. He then attempted to force Abbas to confess to a robbery.

The independent daily Al-Badeel reported that the victim claimed he was beaten with batons inside the police station.

He was subsequently paraded up and down the street in a woman's underwear in an effort to humiliate him and force him to confess.

It was the latest of several torture cases in the country. In November, a police captain and two of his plainclothes informants were sentenced to seven years in prison for torturing a man to death. Three weeks earlier, two police officers received three years in prison for sodomising a minibus driver after his arrest in a high-profile case that shed new light on widespread police brutality in Egypt.

Rights groups say torture, including sexual abuse, is routine in police stations and in the interrogation of prisoners, but the Interior Ministry denies it is systematic.

Al-Qaeda on mobiles

VIDEO messages by Al-Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman El-Zawahri can now be downloaded to cell phones.

An announcement by the pair was posted late Friday by Al-Qaeda's media wing, Al-Sahab, on websites commonly used by Islamic militants. As of Saturday, eight previously recorded videos were made available including a recent tribute to the former Al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, who was killed by US forces in Iraq in June 2006.

In a written message introducing the new cell phone videos, El-Zawahri asked followers to spread the group's messages.

"I asked God for the men of jihadi media to spread the message of Islam and monotheism to the world and spread real awareness to the people of the nations," El-Zawahri said.

Videos playable on cell phones are increasingly popular in the Middle East. The files are transferred from phone to phone using Bluetooth or Infrared wireless technology.

Videos showing former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's execution in December 2006 showed up on cell phones soon after his death. In Egypt, images showing police brutality have been passed around via cell phones.

Video and audio tapes from various Islamist groups including Al-Qaeda are available on militant websites but require a computer and a fast Internet connection to download. The eight videos currently available to download to cell phones by Al-Sahab range in size from 17 megabytes to 120 megabytes, requiring phones to have large amounts of free data capacity. Al-Sahab has promised to release more of its previous video messages in cell-phone quality formats.

In December, Al-Qaeda invited journalists to send questions to the Egyptian-born El-Zawahri. The invitation was the first time the media-savvy Al-Qaeda offered outsiders to "interview" one of its leaders since the 9/11 attacks.

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