Military

Fiji pulls peacekeepers from Egypt amid security fears

Sixty-five of the three hundred plus peacekeepers stationed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula have closed their remote bases as the security situation deteriorates. Commander Humphery Tawake, who heads the South Pacific nation’s foreign peacekeeping force, said Fiji was asked to scale down its presence by the leaders of the international peacekeeping operation in Egypt. Commander Tawake said […]

Associated Press

May 30, 2016 1:15 am

Sixty-five of the three hundred plus peacekeepers stationed in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula have closed their remote bases as the security situation deteriorates.

Fijian Peacekeepers in Sirai (Isareltimes.com)
Fijian Peacekeepers in Sinai. (Isareltimes.com)

Commander Humphery Tawake, who heads the South Pacific nation’s foreign peacekeeping force, said Fiji was asked to scale down its presence by the leaders of the international peacekeeping operation in Egypt.

Commander Tawake said the U.S. and Colombia were also planning to reduce troop numbers as peacekeepers in the northern Sinai found themselves increasingly caught in the middle of fighting between Egypt’s armed forces and militants affiliated with the Islamic State group.

TAWAKE: “It’s not only affecting us, it’s affecting the whole mission. The threat and the danger that has preexisted since 2013 has spilled over. Some of our locations were hit by indirect fire and mortars last week.”

Commander Tawake said that five of Fiji’s remote outposts in Sinai had been closed recently, leaving just two or three operating.

TAWAKE: “Only about 10 to 15 troops operate the small outposts, making them more vulnerable to attack than larger bases. The decisions about troop numbers were coming from the headquarters of the Multinational Force and Observers group, and exact numbers for Fiji’s draw down had yet to be finalized.”

Mr Tawake said Fiji had stationed peacekeepers in Egypt since 1982, with the latest group of a little over 300 beginning a planned one-year rotation in February.

The Multinational Force and Observers group have continually monitored compliance with the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. Twelve nations currently contribute a total of about 1,700 troops to the force, with Fiji authorised to provide up to 338 soldiers.

The U.S. is authorised to contribute up to 707 soldiers. The Associated Press reported last year that the Obama administration was quietly reviewing the future of America’s role in the Sinai, with options ranging from beefing up protection for U.S. troops to pulling them out altogether.

In 2014, 45 Fijian peacekeepers were held captive in Syria for two weeks by the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front before being released unharmed.

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