The Egyptian government intends to use chemical weapons against terrorists in the Sinai Peninsula, a Kuwaiti paper claimed on Friday, quoting security sources in Egypt.
According to the sources in the Al-Rai daily, the aim of the government is to “smoke out the terrorists” from their hiding places and make them easier to catch.
The chemical weapons will be used far from residential areas, said the report.
On Sunday, the Egyptian military sent 50 tanks and armored vehicles to take control over an area in northern Sinai, where a Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) base had been attacked by Bedouin Salafi gunmen last Friday.
The attack on the MFO at North Camp, 16 kilometers from the Israeli border, injured four foreign officers.
Another brazen attack by suspected Islamic terrorists on a military outpost near the Egypt-Israel-Gaza border on August 5 resulted in the death of 16 Egyptian soldiers and an infiltration into Israel.
The rugged Sinai Peninsula of barren deserts and daunting mountains — with a population of around 400,000 — has long been a volatile corner of Egypt, home to militants, smugglers, and restive tribes.
Following last year’s uprising that ousted longtime authoritarian president Hosni Mubarak from power, however, the situation in Sinai has spiraled out of control. Across Egypt, police and internal security forces fell apart during the uprising. They have returned to the streets in some areas, but in Sinai, particularly in the north, their presence remains weak.
In a sign of how emboldened the militants have become, during Sunday’s fighting a group chased down 13 armored personnel carriers that had conducted the raids, firing on them and at a helicopter involved in the security sweep.
Three policemen, two soldiers and two civilians, a 10-year-old girl and an elderly Bedouin woman were wounded in two hours of fighting in the Sheik Zuweyid area, officials said.
Later the same morning, militants in Land Cruisers fired rocket-propelled grenades and bullets at northern Sinai’s main security headquarters in el-Arish, two police stations in the area and a checkpoint. No one was wounded in those attacks.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.