VIDEO: US Congress delegation visits Sinai peacekeepers

Ahram Online , Friday 6 May 2016

A group of US lawmakers visited the Multinational Force and Observers peacekeepers in Sinai

A group of United States congressmen visited the Multinational Force and Observers in Sinai on Thursday to check on the American contingent of troops deployed to what they described as a "hotspot" for IS militant group in North Africa.

Congressman Michael McCaul led the bipartisan congressional delegation to the MFO's North Camp, and said in a video published by the House Committee on Homeland Security that although "ISIS seems to be losing ground in Syria and Iraq, we're seeing a greater presence of ISIS in places like here in the Sinai peninsula in Egypt."

The MFO is an international peacekeeping force that was established to oversee the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. Last September, six MFO peacekeepers, including four Americans, were injured in two bomb blasts in Sinai.

McCaul, standing in front of soliders and armoured vehicles, described North Sinai in the video as "ground zero" with the "battlefield right outside." 

"ISIS in the Sinai pulled off one of the biggest threats to aviation by bringing down the Russian airliner just last year at Sharm El-Sheikh, and demonstrated their ability to conduct external operations," McCaul stated in the video.

The Texas representative added that American officials "don’t want to see those operations turn against the West and the United States."

The Russian passenger airliner crashed last October in Sinai, killing all 224 onboard. Russia and other states blamed a terrorist-planted bomb for the incident; Egyptian investigators have referred initial findings to the country's prosecution for further action, but no Egyptian report on the incident has yet been released.

Congressman McCaul said the delegation is "working and meeting with our leaders here, our military officers, to determine how best to deal with this challenging threat."

Around 700 US troops are currently deployed to the MFO. The US contingent is the largest of twelve national contingents, which include Australia, Canada, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Fiji, France, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, the UK, and Uruguay.

MaCaul said the delegation would also be travelling to Libya and Tunisia to "to look at the growing threat of ISIS not only from the caliphate in Iraq and Syria but also in North Africa."

Last month, CNN reported that the US is considering moving its troops from the MFO's North Camp, which is located in North Sinai’s Al-Gorah, approximately 16km from the Israeli border and 37km southeast of the city of Arish, to the South Camp in South Sinai.

The US military said in April that it had formally notified Egypt and Israel that it is reviewing peacekeeping operations in Sinai.

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