People watch as smoke rises from the burning remains of a vehicle after a firefight between Egyptian security forces and suspected militants in Sinai. (Photo: Reuters)
The authorities in Egypt are urging tribal leaders to support a security campaign in the Sinai Peninsula where an attack on 5 August killed 16 border guards, media reports said on Tuesday.
The defence minister, General Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, asked tribal leaders who gathered on Monday in El-Arish in the north of the peninsula to "support the security forces and the campaign" in the area, government daily Al-Ahram said.
Sissi gave them an assurance that the objective of the campaign was to "take full control of the situation in Sinai" and said that the army's role was to "support interior ministry forces."
He also said that the names of the perpetrators of the 5 August attack, attributed to Islamic extremists, will be announced at the end of the inquiry into the incident.
Cairo has vowed to reassert its control over the Sinai, a sensitive region close to Israel and the Palestinian Gaza Strip where smugglers and militants thrive, after a host of security-related problems since the fall in February 2011 of president Hosni Mubarak.
Sources in Cairo have said that some of the gunmen involved in the August 5 attack had entered Sinai through a network of smuggling tunnels which run under the Gaza border.
After killing the Egyptian guards the still unidentified attackers burst through a border crossing into Israel where they were killed by tank and helicopter fire.
In the wake of the attack on the army outpost, President Mohamed Morsi dismissed his powerful defence minister, replaced his spy chief and sacked top security and political officials in the Sinai.
On 14 August, Egyptian security forces exchanged fire with militants in the peninsula and on 18 August, militants wounded three policemen there in an ambush of their vehicle with a rocket-propelled grenade.
The tribes of the Sinai, an area mainly populated by Bedouins, have long had strained relations with the central government, which they accuse of neglecting the development of the peninsula.
The military campaign has seen the largest buildup of troops in the Sinai since Israel returned the territory under a 1979 peace treaty that restricted Egypt's military presence on the peninsula.